Asked about ‘tolerance,’ Weiner talks about stop-and-frisk and metzitzah b’peh

Weiner at the tolerance forum. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Last night, at the Museum of Tolerance, NY1's Errol Louis asked the candidates running for mayor what tolerance meant to them.

Most of the responses were pretty much what you'd expect: "Acceptance of each other's existence," "understanding and respect," "gorgeous mosaic," "melting pot," "learning to find the commonality," etc.

When Anthony Weiner's turn arrived, he talked about stop-and-frisk, and how "the real test of tolerance is not standing up for your own group but standing up for someone else."

And then Weiner, who is the only Jewish candidate in the Democratic primary, talked about a controversial circumcision practice called metzitzah b'peh, during which a mohel sucks the blood from the wound of a freshly circumcized penis. It's a practice that has led to the spread of herpes and, since 2000, has been linked to the deaths of at least two babies and brain damage in at least two others.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg now requires that parents sign a consent form acknowledging the health risks, which was itself a very controversial move.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the only Democratic candidate to have said some sort of safety precaution is in order.  

Tom Farley, the city's health commissioner, says that because of its health dangers, the practice should "never be performed."

But that, according to Weiner, is not tolerant.

"You know, I've been criticized a lot of places for my position on metzitzah b'peh, on the ritual bris," he said last night. "My instinct as a liberal is the libertarian sense of that word, is that we have to be very, very careful when we in government decide to step in, even if we're 100 percent sure. Remember, government always is about the rule of the majority. ... You have to be extra careful to protect the rights of people that are in the smallest of minorities."

As a candidate running for mayor, you also have to be extra careful not to upset the Hasidim who practice metzitzah b'peh and who vote in large numbers, in blocs.