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De Blasio Forced To Distance Self From Comments Made By Harry Belafonte

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Despite a big lead in the polls - a poll released Sunday showed him with a 65 percent to 42 percent lead over Republican candidate Joseph Lhota - Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio spent much of his day on the campaign trail, working to get out the vote, but he was also forced to distance himself from controversial comments made by a prominent supporter at an event in Harlem. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Bill de Blasio began his Sunday attending an awards ceremony for teachers at the Waldorf Astoria. He told the friendly crowd that he understands how tough it is to be a teacher in New York, and that he'll do what he can improve morale.

But it was comments made at the next event in Harlem that de Blasio wound up taking criticism for, even though he didn't make them.

Singer and activist Harry Belafonte introduced de Blasio at the First Corinthian Baptist Church, but before he did, he ripped the conservative financiers the Koch Brothers.

"They may help the heart and the thinking of the mind of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan. They are white supremacists," Belafonte said. "The Koch Brothers. That's their name."

De Blasio took the stage moments later and did not denounce the comments, instead offering praise for Belafonte.

"When you listen to Harry, you are listening to the voice of a wisdom that's deeper than any wisdom we meet in our day-to-day life," he said.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Koch Brothers called Belafonte's remarks "false and reprehensible."

De Blasio's rival, Joseph Lhota, also seized on them.

"That kind of rhetoric is race baiting and hateful," Lhota said.

De Blasio later distanced himself from Belanfonte.

"I disagree with that characterization," he said. "I have great respect for Harry Belafonte, but I think that was the wrong way to talk about them, and I don't think that's fair."

De Blasio also shot down a report that he is pushing for City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito to be the next City Council speaker. She was by his side later in the day for a get out the vote rally with Latino lawmakers.

"The focus I have now is on Election Day," he said. "When I talk to council members, that's what we talk about, their elections and my election."

Depsite a commanding lead in the polls, de Blasio is reminding not to take anything for granted and to come out to vote on Tuesday. He said that the next time he will ask for their help is after he gets elected and he goes to Albany to demand funding for universal pre-kindergarten.

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