Rep. Jamaal Bowman under fire for legacy admissions ‘hypocrisy’ as congressional primary race heats up

NEW YORK — Legacies for me, but not for thee.

Two years ago, Rep. Jamaal Bowman introduced a bill in Congress seeking to prohibit preferential admissions for legacy applicants at colleges — but a video recently unearthed by the New York Daily News shows two of his own children benefited from a version of that very system.

Bowman revealed his own family’s reliance on legacy admissions earlier this year during a talk with students at the Forsyth Satellite Academy, a public school on the Lower East Side.

“I worry for my kids in the education system, but I’m very privileged, and I’m embarrassed to say this to everybody: my kids go to private school,” the Democratic lawmaker can be heard saying in the video, which is dated Feb. 27, 2024 and was posted on Forsyth’s Instagram page.

Bowman, who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester, went on to explain that his second wife had attended private school, which bestowed legacy status upon their two children.

“She graduated from private school. So, now that she has kids, those kids get legacy admissions into these private schools,” he continued. “So now I got two kids with my second wife who goes to these private schools. It was her decision, not mine, but I went with it because I like the school.”

Bowman is now locked in a competitive primary fight with Westchester County Executive George Latimer. Voting for that contest is set for June 25.

The race has been dominated by debate over where the two stand on the Israeli conflict with Hamas in Gaza, with Bowman taking a more pro-Palestinian stance and Latimer siding primarily with the Israelis. Bowman has also taken heat for defending a mural depicting Louis Farrakhan and for pulling a fire alarm on Capitol Hill, while Latimer has come under fire for accepting donations from contributors who also gave to former President Donald Trump.

Now, Bowman’s position on legacy admissions is being called into question as well.

Former Gov. David Paterson, who endorsed Latimer earlier this month, said it demonstrates the Congressman is failing to lead by example.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy,” Paterson said of Bowman’s stance on legacies. “It personifies the belief that the public often has that elected officials make up rules for everyone but themselves.”

Bowman did not directly address the legacy issue when contacted by The News. Despite the fact that video shows him talking about his kids’ private school education, he claimed that “either my opponent’s campaign or his supporters are pushing for the publication of a story that would reveal private information about my children.”

“This is unconscionable. Over the past month, I have received multiple death threats filled with racial slurs and hateful epithets,” he said. “I will not stand by and let my children face the same hate that I have seen.”

In one unhinged email the Bowman campaign provided to The News as an example, the sender repeatedly levels racial epthets at Bowman and wishes for the death of him and his children.

Latimer’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

In his talk at the Forsyth school, Bowman, a progressive Democrat who describes himself as “working class” in campaign literature, noted that his oldest son, now an adult, attended public schools throughout the entirety of his academic career.

A New York City private school, which charges more than $63,000 a year in tuition and other costs, referred to Bowman as a parent in a Sept. 2020 social media post. The News is withholding the name of the school in question because Bowman’s two other children are minors.

Bowman’s recent candor about his own kids’ legacy admissions is a far cry from earlier rhetoric on the same topic.

The bill he introduced two years ago with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) would prohibit colleges that participate in federal student aid programs from giving preference to school applicants with legacy or donor status.

“The legacy admissions practice which disproportionately benefits rich, white, and connected students, and has antisemitic and anti-immigrant roots, creates another systemic barrier to accessing higher education for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students,” Bowman said when the bill was introduced. “Exclusionary policies must end and Congress must prohibit these unfair and inequitable practices.”

While speaking at Forsyth, where his sister Deanna Bowman serves as the school’s “respect for all” liaison, Bowman went on to say that the situation with legacy admissions is one reason why he’s “trying to start a revolution in public schools.”

“There’s no reason why public schools shouldn’t be doing what private schools are doing,” he said at the time. “The main reason is the people in power don’t care about kids that go to public school.”

His remarks apparently made an impression. The school posted video of his talk on Instagram, along with a “#reelectbowman” endorsement.

It’s unclear who from the school posted that message, but under city law, government officials are prohibited from using municipal resources like social media accounts to promote political causes.

City Education Department spokesman Nathaniel Styer said the message “is not permitted.”

“We’ll reach out and have them remove the hashtag,” he said.