Health Commissioner Barbot apologizes for negative remark toward NYPD

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New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot on March 1. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot has been absent from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefings on COVID-19 after comments about the safety of police officers surfaced last week.

Barbot issued an apology for telling NYPD Chief Terence Monahan “I don’t give two rats’ a–es about your cops” when rejecting his request for 500,000 units of personal protective equipment back in March as the rising pandemic made such supplies scarce.

De Blasio has since stood by his health commissioner in Sunday’s press briefing as organizations such as the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association called for Barbot’s termination from the role.

“The members of the NYPD fight valiantly every day to keep New Yorkers safe. In mid-March, I was asked to provide the NYPD with a half million N-95 masks, while masks and other PPE were in terribly short supply,” a statement from Barbot said. “I wished we had sufficient numbers to meet their full request and were ultimately able to partially fulfill what was sought. This regrettably led to an argument in which words were exchanged between a police official and myself. I apologized to that police official then and today, I apologize to the NYPD for leaving any impression whatsoever that I don’t have utmost respect for our police department, which plays a critical role on the frontlines each and every day to keep our city safe.”

De Blasio told reporters on Sunday that Barbot’s absence from the morning press conference was a simple matter of her input not being necessary on those particular days despite her more frequent appearances in the past alongside other health and police officials. Nonetheless, the mayor claimed he had pressed Barbot to deliver a public statement.

“We talked about the concerns that I’ve raised and others have raised about her conversation with Chief Monahan. I told her I thought it was important for her to address that publicly. I believe she’ll be doing that soon. And the work needs to continue, and we talked about how to deepen the work of all of our Departments as a single team and a unified effort for the good of all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said Sunday. “And it was a good conversation. I am convinced we’re all going to do important and good work, going forward, to keep fighting back this disease. So, a positive conversation and we’re all moving forward.”

But tensions between the de Blasio and his own police department might have only been negatively impacted as indicated by PBA President Pat Lynch who called for her immediate ouster no matter what.

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 said on May 13. “She should have been fired the moment she uttered those words. She must resign or be fired immediately now.”

The city has made strides in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by producing PPE within city limits to prevent further shortages as well as opening up testing capacity to 20,000 people per day.