9:12 am Jan. 2, 2013
In Monday's Briefing newsletter I linked to a column by Amsterdam News publisher and editor-in-chief Elinor Tatum which included a line saying that Joe Lhota, "in his role as deputy mayor, threw ethnic slurs at at least one reporter and shoved him, showing his disdain for anyone or anything that did not agree with the policies of his team."
Lhota, who just stepped down as head of the M.T.A. to prepare for a run for mayor, emailed to me to dispute that characterization of the incident.
"It's not a true statement," he wrote. "Video of the event shows the reporter shoving me. And none of the witnesses, of which there were 5, corroborated the charge that ethnic slurs were made. Pure fiction."
(He later said there may only have been four other witnesses.)
The incident took place outside City Hall on March 1, 2000 and was reportedly captured by security cameras then-mayor Rudy Giuliani had just installed at City Hall.
The reporter was Rafael Martinez Alequin, a gadfly presence in City Hall who self-published a newsletter at the time. (He's online-only now.)
According to the Times, "Lhota acknowledged shoving him but denied using a remark derogatory to Latinos."
The paper also quoted Lhota saying, "He interrupted me and shoved me and I shoved him back."
Regarding the phrasing "threw ethnic slurs at at least one reporter" in the Amsterdam News column, it's the only time I know of that Lhota was accused of anything like that.
Shortly after the incident, veteran police reporter Leonard Levitt, who was himself a famous irritant to the Giuliani administration, wrote that Lhota "acknowledged having shoved the gnat-like reporter Rafael Martinez Alequin on the portico of City Hall and then having to be restrained inside the lobby by Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tino Hernandez."
It should also be noted that Alequin is no stranger to this sort of controversy.
In May of last year, he called a television reporter a "fucking faggot"during a press conference at City Hall. Schools chancellor Dennis Walcott had to step in to break up the dispute.