New York Daily News

May 8, 2013


 

Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota stirs 9/11 fury by calling Port Authority police 'mall cops'

Lhota said he regretted his ‘unfortunate characterization’ of the Port Authority Police Department, calling his remarks ‘insensitive’ as many who were offended brought up the agency’s heroism during the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks.

By Celeste Katz / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch is against using cameras to catch speedy drivers.

PEARL GABEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Lhota apologized for his ‘unfortunate characterization’ of the Port Authority Police Department, whom he called 'mall cops.' The mayoral candidate called his own remarks ‘insensitive.’

Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota ate his words Wednesday, apologizing profusely after mocking the Port Authority police as “nothing more than mall cops.”

Lhota’s disparaging comment — at a candidate forum Tuesday night — had created a furor. Police unions said it was especially insensitive to a force that lost 37 members in the 9/11 attacks.

“I regret my unfortunate characterization of the Port Authority Police Department,” Lhota said. “It was an inappropriate answer that does not accurately reflect the hard work of its officers.” 

Lhota made his crack in answering a question about sex trafficking through JFK Airport, which the Port Authority runs. 

PAPD Shield

WATTS, SUSAN

Paul Nunziato, head of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, thinks Lhota should apologize to the ‘37 [Port Authority PD] families from 9/11, [their] children and everyone who wears a police uniform.’

“They suffered enough and then they’ve got to read statements like this from a guy who wants to be mayor of New York? They’re just devastated. They have no idea why he would say something like that. Neither do we.”

James Carver, head of the Nassau County police union, jumped in to defend the Port Authority police, as did Patrick Lynch, president of the city Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

“On 9/11, we searched together for 23 NYPD officers and 37 PAPD officers who sacrificed their own lives while evacuating others to safety,” Lynch said. “If that doesn’t speak to professional policing, then I don’t know what does.”

Lhota’s Republican rivals pounced. John Catsimatidis called the comments “sad.” And George McDonald issued an e-mail naming the 37 Port Authority cops killed on 9/11. In their memory, and in respect to officers still on the job, “Joe Lhota owes them an apology,” McDonald said.

Lhota has never run for office before and is still trying to get his sea legs as a candidate. 

But it was not the first time that he has had to issue a public apology. In November, as chairman of the MTA, he apologized after referring to Mayor Bloomberg as an “idiot.”

Lhota’s remark also managed to alienate a constituency — police officers — that was expected to be sympathetic, if not supportive, of his candidacy. 

Lhota’s dad was an NYPD lieutenant, and Lhota was a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, who was widely seen as pro-police.

Lhota has spoken often of the time he spent at Giuliani’s side during and after the 9/11 attacks. 

Nunziato said that experience only made the comments more baffling. 

“I think he should apologize to the 37 [Port Authority PD] families from 9/11, [their] children and everyone who wears a police uniform,” he said.

ckatz@nydailynews.com