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De Blasio pushes back on criticism of remarks about funeral: ‘I have no regrets about calling out this danger’

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Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Wednesday said he stood by remarks in which he called out the Jewish community specifically while rebuking a large gathering for a rabbi’s funeral in Brooklyn.

De Blasio, who was on hand as police dispersed the gathering, said he was disturbed by the large number of people crowded together despite social distancing guidelines out in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but said he did not intend to single out any single group.

“I spoke last night out of passion. I could not believe my eyes. … It was deeply, deeply distressing,” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “If you saw anger and frustration, you’re right. I spoke out of real distress that people’s lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it. So 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. It was said with love, but it was tough love.”

“Members of the Jewish community were putting each other in danger, they were putting our police officers in danger. Now, if I see it in any other community, I will call it out equally,” he added. “I have no regrets about calling out this danger and saying we’re going to deal with it very, very aggressively.” 

The remarks come a day after a mass gathering drew a rebuke from de Blasio, who said such gatherings would not be allowed in the face of the stay-at-home order in place in the nation’s largest city. 

“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,” he tweeted. 

The remarks were met with backlash by those who suggested de Blasio was generalizing the large Jewish community in the city over the gathering. 

“There are 1mil+ Jewish people in #NYC,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “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.” 

“How on earth does the mayor of NYC single them out for persecution in the middle of a pandemic? Words do not exist to describe the criminal incompetence at City Hall,” added Lis Smith, a Democratic operative in the state who also served as a senior adviser to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.

De Blasio reiterated that such gatherings have been uncommon and maintained that he would remain a vocal advocate against anti-Semitism.

“It has not happened in other places, let’s be honest. This kind of gathering has happened in only a few places, and it cannot continue,” he said. “It was not acceptable. We will not tolerate it. I also will not tolerate any anti-Semitism, ever. And for decades I’ve made it my business to stand up for the Jewish community, and people know that.”

Tags Bill de Blasio Coronavirus Pete Buttigieg

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