New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio apologized Wednesday for a tweet singling out "the Jewish community" for holding large gatherings. But he said he has "no regrets" about calling out the dangers posed bypacking the streets of Brooklyn for a funeral in defiance of social distancing guidelines.
"I regret if the way I say it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way — it was not my intention," de Blasio said at his daily coronavirus press briefing Wednesday. "It was said with love, but it was tough love."
De Blasio fired off several tweets the night before about a large crowd of Hasidic Jews who gathered for a rabbi's funeral in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. It was only theof Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn crowding together for an event at a time when large gatherings are banned for health reasons.
The mayor wrote that he went to the gathering himself to help break it up, and that these gatherings "WILL NOT be tolerated" during the pandemic.
"My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed," de Blasio wrote. "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."
Jewish groups called out the mayor for directing his message at the city's entire Jewish community, which includes more than 1 million people, rather than the small subset of Hasidic Jews who have been flouting social distancing measures.
"The few who don't social distance should be called out — but generalizing against the whole population is outrageous especially when so many are," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a tweet directed at the mayor.
At Wednesday's briefing, de Blasio said he had spoken "out of passion" because he found the sight of another large Hasidic gathering "deeply, deeply distressing."
"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."
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said officers issued 12 summonses at the funeral. At Wednesday's briefing, he addressed those who ignored social distancing: "You are putting my cops at risk."