Bloomberg Talks Bagels, Mosque With Jon Stewart

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — From Glenn Beck to bagels and the ground zero mosque – there was no topic too sensitive when Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on The Daily Show Thursday night.

Never one to be too serious, host Jon Stewart opened the interview with what he referred to as an “emotional super-charged issue that everyone in the city is talking about.”

The sliced bagel tax, of course.

New York State’s Department of Taxation and Finance has started auditing bagel shop owners, saying if you slice it or serve it in store it needs to be taxed – this adds about 8 cents to the cost of a bagel.

“This is clearly…anti-Semitic,” said Stewart. “Who likes bagels more than us?”

Bloomberg sarcastically admitted that this is one of the big issues he will be working on for the rest of his term, as he agreed with the comedian that the bagel tax is a huge penalty to downstate New Yorkers.

“You can’t even get a bagel upstate,” Bloomberg said.

But when it came to talk of the controversial Islamic center and mosque that’s been the city’s hot topic as of late, the two put jokes aside – for a bit.

“This whole issue, I think, will go away right after the next election,” Bloomberg told Stewart.

“This is plain and simple people trying to stir up things to get publicity and trying to polarize people so that they can get some votes,” he said. “And I don’t think that most of these people who are yelling and screaming really care one way or another.”

Bloomberg emphasized the same argument he’s made since the controversy first struck, pointing to the first amendment.

“When I went to school, I studied the constitution. It says you have a right to say what you want to say, which means pray to whomever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want,” he said. “That’s what’s great about America.”

Bloomberg added a true New York attitude to his comments before Stewart offered his comic relief.

“Whether you like the mosque or don’t like the mosque, you don’t have to go,” he said. “There’s already another mosque down there within four block of the World Trade Center. There’s porno places, there’s fast-food places. It’s a vibrant community.”

After allowing the Mayor to make his point, Stewart got back to basics, offering comic relief to the emotionally-charged issue.

“I understand,” he said. “Why did you have to look at me when you said porno places?”