By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
New York, NY – New York City’s health commissioner apologized Monday for saying she didn’t give “two rats’ –sses” about New York Police Department (NYPD) officers getting proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the virus outbreak in the city.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said on May 18 that she was sorry for “leaving any impression” that she lacked respect for the officers of the NYPD, WPIX reported.
“The members of the NYPD fight valiantly every day to keep New Yorkers safe,” Barbot said in a statement. “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. 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,” the statement continued. “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.”
Barbot has been under fire since it was revealed that she refused to adequately supply the police department with PPE when NYPD Chief Terence Monahan made a desperate plea for them back in March, WPIX reported.
“I don’t give two rats’ -sses about your cops,” New York Health Commissioner Barbot told Chief Monahan, according to WNYW. “I need them for others.”
Chief Monahan had requested 500,000 surgical masks, and Barbot eventually agreed to hand over just 50,000, the New York Post reported.
The heated conversation took place during a phone call in late March, sources told the paper.
When Chief Monahan made the request, the number of NYPD officers who were falling ill and testing positive for the novel coronavirus was rising sharply, but none of the officers had succumbed to COVID-19 at the time, the New York Post reported.
As of Wednesday night, 41 of the 5,490 NYPD employees known to have contracted the virus have died.
During an Office of Emergency Management meeting in March, Chief Monahan told New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that the police department was desperately in immediate need for personal protective equipment (PPE).
“For weeks, we haven’t gotten an answer,” the chief said, according to the New York Post.
A source told the paper that De Blasio then turned to Barbot and asked her what the police chief was talking about.
“You definitely need it,” the mayor told Chief Monahan. “Oxiris, you’re going to fix this right now.”
At the time, Barbot was sitting on a stash of ventilators, masks, and other equipment that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had in storage in New Jersey, according to the New York Post.
The NYPD was ultimately able to get 250,000 masks from City Hall, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) kicked in disinfectant and Tyvek suits, the New York Post reported.
De Blasio yanked the city’s coronavirus tracing and major testing program from Barbot’s office last week and announced that the public hospital system would oversee the project instead.
Barbot, who has been a consistent participant in de Blasio’s daily briefings, was not present when the announcement was made, the New York Daily Post reported.
Department of Health Press Secretary Patrick Gallahue said that Barbot made the statement about not giving “two rats’ -sses” about the NYPD because she was stressed about the spread of the pandemic.
“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,” Gallahue said, according to the New York Post. “[Barbot] apologized for her contribution to the exchange.”
Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch called Barbot’s comments “despicable and unforgivable,” and demanded that she be fired.
“Dr. Barbot should be forced to look in the eye of every police family who lost a hero to this virus,” Lynch declared. “Look them in the eye and tell them they aren’t worth a rat’s ass.”
“She should’ve been fired the moment she uttered those words,” he said, according to WNBC. “She must resign or be fired immediately now.”
U.S. Representative Max Rose (D-New York) also called for Barbot’s ouster.
“Dr. Barbot shouldn’t resign, she should be fired,” Rose tweeted on Wednesday night.
Detective’s Endowment Association (DEA) President Paul DiGiacomo said that Barbot’s comments and attitude placed first responders at an even greater risk of harm.
“The Detectives’ Endowment Association is calling on Mayor de Blasio to immediately fire Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot for not only her despicable remarks but for endangering our men and women in blue who are tirelessly protecting New Yorkers during this pandemic,” DiGiacomo said, according to WNYW.
“A so-called city leader, Dr. Barbot showed her true colors as a cop-hater. Five 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,” the DEA said in a statement, according to WNBC.
“Dr. Oxiris Barbot’s shameful behavior likely contributed to the further spread of this deadly virus,” the union added. “She has brought great shame to New York City government and every medical professional who is courageously fighting the Coronavirus pandemic alongside our cops.”
The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association (SBA) said that Barbot is responsible for NYPD deaths.
“Truth is this b–ch has blood on her hands but why should anyone be surprised the NYPD has suffered under DeBlasio since he became Mayor,” the union tweeted on Wednesday night.
De Blasio scoffed at the SBA’s comment, calling it “divisive” and “absolutely unacceptable,” the New York City Patch reported.
The NYPD refused to comment on the situation, according to the New York Post.
On Thursday, de Blasio said he first learned about Barbot’s comment to Chief Monahan on Wednesday night, WNBC reported.
“No public servant should ever in any way say anything disrespectful about the men and women of the NYPD,” de Blasio said during his daily press conference. “To me it would be inappropriate for anyone, particularly in a leadership role, to suggest any lack of interest in protecting the men and women of the NYPD. That to me would be a real inappropriate statement.”
The mayor said he is looking into the details of what occurred and that he plans to gather information directly from Barbot and Chief Monahan, WNBC reported.