Bloomberg 'insensitive' to reporter in wheelchair
Reporter Michael Harris wants an apology from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. See video here. (Photo: Michael Kirby)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg stared down and chastised a wheelchair-bound reporter after his tape recorder accidentally started playing during a news conference aired live on TV Thursday.
The mayor halted his comments about same-sex marriage legislation during a news conference held by the governor in his Manhattan office, glaring at the reporter and refusing to continue even as Gov. David Paterson tried to joke about the interruption.
The reporter said he could not reach his tape recorder, which was playing an earlier news conference, because the coat it was in had been knocked off his chair by a photographer, activating the device.
At one point, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leaned over and told the mayor the reporter was disabled, to which he replied: I understand that. He can still turn it off.
The episode showed a lack of sensitivity, disabled advocates said. The reporter was troubled by the incident and wants an apology.
I was quite embarrassed, said the reporter, Michael Harris, who writes for examiner.com and is also a disability rights advocate. The mayor singled me out in front of my colleagues. I think an apology would be appropriate, but I'm not optimistic that the mayor's going to give one.Harris said the photographer and security guard had to retrieve the coat so he could turn the device off.
Observers said the standoff, which lasted more than a minute, was awkward. Politicians who were standing behind him at times laughed or seemed puzzled.
New Yorkers said the mayor could have shown compassion.
[Bloomberg] looked very obnoxious, to be honest with you, said Boris Gaviria, 33, of Forest Hills, who watched the news conference on television. Hes not getting my vote. Im surprised he would do that - he wants to be for all Americans.
In a Daily News video of the incident, someone in the background could be heard saying, he's trying while Harris apparently went to turn the device off. The mayor responded: Let me start again because this is too important to get disruptive and maybe we just take everything outside.
The mayor later said Harris is a good reporter and he would have responded the same to another reporter.
Harris said he didnt receive an apology.
Lawrence Carter-Long, acting executive director of Disabilities Network of New York City, said he did not think the mayor was trying to be malicious and hoped the incident would shed light on the nuances of being disabled.
It appears on the surface that there could be a little more sensitivity, Carter-Long said. I hope that everyone would learn the variables and nuances that occur within disabilities and they would educate themselves and think twice before making off-the-cuff comments.
Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who was standing in the crowd of politicians while Bloomberg was speaking, called the mayor's reaction a "hissy fit."
"I happen to know Michael [Harris] very well," Liu sad. "Michael was moving quickly as he can move to shut the device off. It so happens that Michael isnt as dexterous as some of us are. It was an honest mistake. It did not require the kind of reaction that the mayor put out."
Casey Feldman contributed to this report.