Hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized “the Jewish community” for failing to adhere to social distancing orders during a large funeral held in Brooklyn, he issued an apology, but said he had “no regrets about calling out this danger.”
“If in my passion and in my emotion, I said something that in any way was hurtful, I’m sorry about that,” de Blasio said during a press briefing Wednesday. “That was not my intention. But I also want to be clear: I have no regrets about calling out this danger and saying we’re going to deal with it very, very aggressively.”
His apology came after his initial remarks, which were made on Twitter, were met with strong criticism. The mayor and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea personally visited the area in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood where hundreds of people gathered to mourn the death of Rabbi Chaim Mertz.
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups,” de Blasio said on Twitter.
In response, New York City councilman Kalman Yeger, who is Jewish, described the mayor’s comments as “unacceptable.”
Mr. Mayor, your words are unacceptable. To condemn our entire community over one group of people is something you would not do to any other ethnic group, and I know you long enough to know that you know this. https://t.co/tkKQrc0bXA
— Kalman Yeger ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם (@KalmanYeger) April 29, 2020
“To condemn our entire community over one group of people is something you would not do to any other ethnic group, and I know you long enough to know that you know this,” Yeger tweeted.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said in a tweet aimed at the mayor, “The few who don’t social distance should be called out—but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews.”
Hey @NYCMayor, there are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC. The few who don’t social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are scapegoating Jews. This erodes the very unity our city needs now more than ever. https://t.co/jcYO9QQred
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 29, 2020
“What he did was a horror,” founder of Americans Against Antisemitism Dov Hikind told NTD News. “To blame the Jewish community, that means he blamed me, he blamed everybody—Jews everywhere. That was clear, that’s why people reacted the way they did. People on the right, people on the left, it doesn’t matter, they understood the danger of his words.”
De Blasio pushed back against critics and said he spoke out of “frustration” and “anger,” as he found it “deeply, deeply distressing” to see a large crowd defy social distancing orders.
“It was said with love, but it was tough love,” he said. “I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. That was not my intention.”
He wrote earlier that large gatherings “WILL NOT be tolerated” during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, that has infected more than 1 million Americans nationwide, and caused at least 60,000 deaths.
“I understand when people are going through mourning, they’re in real pain, but we have to understand what it means to hold a large gathering in New York City today,” he said.
“It means unfortunately that people who go to that gathering, some will be sick with that disease. It’s just a fact. We know this. Some will spread the disease to others. People, as a result, will die.”
New York has the most cases and deaths in the nation; the bulk of the outbreak is in the city, which has a population of some 8.5 million.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Sunday that upstate could begin to reopen on May 15 when the stay-at-home orders are slated to expire.
Cuomo plans to extend restrictions for some parts of the state, primarily New York City and its environs. If reopening isn’t done well, the state will see the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths begin to rise sharply again, he warned.
NYPD officers issued 12 summonses at the Brooklyn funeral to those defying social distancing measures, Commissioner Shea said.