New York City's health commissioner told a city police official "I don't give two rats' asses about your cops" during a heated exchange about the NYPD's request for 500,000 masks to protect officers amid the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Post reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
What are the details?
Dr. Oxiris Barbot made the remark during a late March phone conversation with NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who asked for 500,000 masks, sources told the paper, but Barbot replied that she could only could provide 50,000: "I need them for others."
After NYPD officials learned the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had a large stash of masks, ventilators, and other equipment in a New Jersey warehouse, sources told the Post that police complained to City Hall, which arranged for the NYPD to get 250,000 masks.
More from the paper:
A source who was present during a tabletop exercise at the city Office of Emergency Management headquarters in Brooklyn in March recalled witnessing a "very tense moment" when Monahan complained to Mayor de Blasio in front of Barbot about the NYPD's need for personal protective equipment, saying, "For weeks, we haven't gotten an answer."
De Blasio, who was seated between Monahan and Barbot, asked her, "Oxiris what is he talking about?" the source said.
When Monahan said the gear was vital to keeping cops safe, de Blasio said, "You definitely need it," and told Barbot, "Oxiris, you're going to fix this right now," the source said.
WNBC-TV said two officials familiar with the matter confirmed that Barbot made the comments and confirmed the Post's report that additional masks were in a New Jersey warehouse. The station also said an official confirmed the paper's report concerning the awkward exchange involving de Blasio, Monahan, and Barbot.
What did the health department have to say?
"During the height of COVID, while our hospitals were battling to keep patients alive, there was a heated exchange between the two where things were said out of frustration but no harm was wished on anyone," the Health Department said in a statement to the station. "The commissioner apologized for her contribution to the exchange, the apology was accepted, and agreement was arrived between the two to ensure that respirators were delivered to members of the force. This has always been about saving the lives of our healthcare workers, police officers, and every New Yorker who is fighting through this pandemic."
How are police unions reacting?
Despite the health department saying Barbot apologized, city police unions are livid and called for the doctor's ouster.
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch characterized the health commissioner's comments as "despicable and unforgivable."
"Dr. Barbot should be forced to look in the eye of every police family who lost a hero to this virus. Look them in the eye and tell them they aren't worth a rat's ass," Lynch added in his Wednesday statement. "She should have been fired the moment she uttered those words. She must resign or be fired immediately now."
The Sergeants Benevolent Association issued a string of tweets on the matter. One of them offered, "Truth is this bitch has blood on her hands, but why should anyone be surprised the NYPD has suffered under de Blasio since he became mayor."
SBA President Ed Mullins said in a statement that "I am not surprised by such vile words coming from an appointee of Mayor de Blasio, whose disdain for law enforcement is legendary. But Dr. Barbot's comments make it clear she has no personal or professional regard for police ... her attitude places police officers in great jeopardy and makes her unfit for the job."
The Detectives' Endowment Association called on de Blasio to fire Barbot in a series of tweets: "A so-called city leader, Dr. Barbot showed her true colors as a cop-hater. Brave NYPD Detectives died as the DEA searched for protective equipment to purchase for our members while we waited for the city to distribute masks. Dr. Barbot's shameful behavior likely contributed to the further spread of this deadly virus. She has brought great shame to NYC government and every medical professional who is courageously fighting the Coronavirus pandemic alongside our cops."