A little drama has been playing out in New York City over the last fortnight.
Chrissie Brodigan's Pug: gets too hot in the subway
The story has an interesting cast of characters: a young female writer, the New York Police Department’s first Hassidic Jewish policeman, a few bystanders, a sleazy NYC Scandal sheet, a Police Chief, a media company called Plum TV… and last, but by no means least, a vomiting but otherwise delightful pug dog.
The tale began on June 30th, when 32 year old Chrissie Brodigan was intercepted in the subway by a couple of NYPD cops. She was carrying her pet pug, but he was not, as subway regulations stipulate, secured within a container. As the train-sick pug was temporarily indisposed, Ms Brodigan had let him out of the box.
An argument erupted between Brodigan and Officer Joel Witriol. There was some pushing and shoving. She was eventually arrested and charged with minor offenses.
As is often the case, accounts of what happened at the arrest scene differ.
Ms Brodigan claims the officer manhandled and abused her, grabbed her breasts, punched her in the back, and left her with minor bruising on the arms and legs. She also claims he said repeatedly “If you’re going to act like a woman, I’m going to treat you like a woman.” Two eye-witnesses, one of whom filmed the altercation with a digital camera, apparently corroborate Ms Brodigan’s account of the incident.
The next day, the New York Post reported:
Brooklyn blogger Chrissie Brodigan claimed Officer Joel Witriol went ballistic when he saw her take her pug, Dempsey, out of her purse in violation of subway regulations at around 5:30 p.m. Monday. She said he cuffed her, insulted her and roughed her up.
But a witness, Viane Delgado, said Brodigan was the one out of line. Delgado said Witriol “repeatedly” asked the woman to place the barking pug in a carrier she had. But instead, she allegedly insulted him with anti-Semitic slurs and tried to walk away.
“You f—ing Jew, you’re not even human,” Delgado quoted Brodigan as saying.
She repeatedly said, “Jewish people think they own everything,” a source said.
But Brodigan denied that account.
“I don’t remember saying anything anti-Semitic,” she said. “I do remember saying, ‘Clearly, you have trouble with women.’ I probably called him an a–hole.”
According to her account, Witriol “said he needed to talk to me” as she was ascending a staircase at the L-line Bedford Avenue station.
“He pushed me against the wall and said, ‘I need your name and ID.’ “
Brodigan, 32, said that when she told Witriol she had left her wallet at work, things turned ugly.
Treated like a lady, NYPD-style...
The blogger denied she had a carrying case with her and said her dog suffers from a health condition that causes it to overheat.
She claims that when she started to walk away, “he handcuffed my wrist, pushed me against the wall, punched me in the back and kicked me in the shin.”
She also claimed Witriol at one point put his hands on her breasts.
Melissa Randazzo, 29, another witness, backed up Brodigan’s story.
“His tone was really alarming,” Randazzo said of Witriol. “The girl looked scared. She didn’t look like someone who would get into trouble. Something didn’t seem right about this situation.”
Witriol’s family would not comment on the case last night.
The NYPD said that there’s no record of any impropriety on the part of Witriol and that Brodigan was given a summons for failing to identify herself and for not having a dog in a proper container.
A police source said Brodigan was belligerent and argumentative.
Brodigan claimed the cop took away her pug and threatened he’d have it “put down.”
Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post does not enjoy a reputation for excellence in journalism. It’s quite possibly the most crass of all the many hundreds of News Corp newspapers around the world – more venal even than the British Sun. The following day, the Post ran a follow-up report:
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly came to the defense yesterday of a Hasidic cop accused of abusing a female straphanger he arrested for having an unleashed dog in the subway.
But Kelly did say her allegation will be probed by the Civilian Compliant Review Board.
“[There is] no indication that she was [manhandled],” he said of Brooklyn blogger Chrissie Brodigan.
Chrissie Brodigan, busted for a containerless pug
The Post’s alleged witnesses have not been corroborated by other sources.
Even so, the allegation was sufficient to turn what had initially been a rather shocking tale about the rough and misogynistic treatment meted out to a New Yorker by an over-zealous cop into a debate about whether or not the victim is an ‘anti-Semite’.
On July 7th, Chrissie Brodigan was suspended from her job at Plum Media. By the 9th, it was reported Brodigan has been fired.
Ms Brodigan unambiguously denies that she made the remarks claimed by the Posts’s alleged witnesses. Here’s her recent statement:
An Open Letter: How I Got Slandered By the New York Post & NYPD
“On Monday, June 30, I was wrongfully arrested and physically abused by the NYPD. The arresting officer who manhandled happens to have been the first Hasidic cop on a force of more than 30,000.
In the days that followed the incident, which became well-publicized, because bystanders photographed the arrest and called the “police” on account of the improper behavior of the arresting officer, and because I had the courage to defend my rights and resisted abuse with the support of these witnesses, the situation has become an unimaginable nightmare for me.
I have been falsely accused of being a bigot by the New York Post in an act of the most irresponsible journalism I have ever experienced, and now I have been fired from a job I loved and was great at on account of these vicious accusations and my alleged failure to respond “vigorously enough” to them.
Here is what happened:
The sleaziest rag in New York?
Either the Post fabricated the existence of this witness, who despite an exerted effort by both journalists at Gothamist and myself has never been located, or they fabricated her remarks.
There were witnesses at the scene and these witnesses did not hear me make any anti-Semitic remarks and specifically did not recall the existence of the Post’s alleged witness. I do not believe that this witness was at the scene nor did any witness hear me make antisemitic remarks.
The truth is that smearing the victim is a classic police technique to cover up abuse and protect the arresting officer.
I am not a bigot, and accusations of bigotry are so absurd that I did not think it even necessary to respond to them.
My “suspension” and now my firing requires that I make things clear to the public.
During the course of my arrest, I did not:
- Utter the words “Jewish” or “Jew.”
- I did not say, “You Jews think you own the world.”
- I did not use the phrase “You fucking Jews . . . “
- I did not say anything that any person, reasonable or not, could have interpreted to mean any reference whatsoever to the obvious religion of the cop who was manhandling me.
These anti-Semitic comments printed by the New York Post never crossed my lips on the day I was wrongfully arrested and physically abused. And, to be even more succinct, those words and statements have NEVER crossed my lips on any other day in my life. EVER.
I believe that ultimately the evidence will come out that the police were involved in the Post’s smear job of me, which was an effort to cover up police misconduct.
Under these circumstances it is important that you know who I am:
I have devoted my adult life to studying and supporting the civil rights of minorities.
To smear me as an anti-Semite is both cowardly and a disgrace and victimizes me once again. I expected more from a community to whom I have devoted my best efforts.”
Ms Brodigan has been charged, but may take legal action of her own. It’s reported she’s consulting a lawyer to investigate her prospects for successfully suing the New York Post for libel.The Gothamist reports:
Brodigan’s attorney, Jonathon D. Warner, tells us, “I’m a Jewish lawyer and I firmly believe she did not utter any anti-Semitic remarks, and I would not represent her if I thought otherwise.” Brodigan says she’ll find out today whether she’s losing her job, and she’s expected to appear in court on August 25th to face the disorderly conduct charge.
Unless the conflicting evidence is tested in an appropriate deliberative process, there’s no way of knowing for sure who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. Yet the majority of identified witnesses seem to back up her side of the story.
Officer Joel Witriol
What’s highly disturbing – and quite wrong – is that a young person’s career has been damaged because of uncorroborated accusations which she denies. Now, in addition to the New York Post’s untraceable witnesses, anonymous comments are being posted on stories covering this saga, claiming she’s a fantasist, a liar and worse. This young woman’s reputation is being rubbished. in public, and she has no way of preventing it.
Plum TV’s behaviour has been thoroughly despicable. While it now claims Brodigan’s firing is unrelated to this incident, that’s hard to credit. After all, before firing Brodigan they suspended her (without pay) quite explicitly because of the allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’. Brodigan says:
“I was terminated for “equivocating” in the press. My boss [Chris Glowacki] is threatening to not offer an agreeable severance package, including health insurance, which is crucial because i have cystic fibrosis and he is aware. He’s angry that this is out in the press. I think he made a judgment based on perceived bigotry.”
Each fatuous, unwarranted and malicious abuse of the term ‘anti-Semitism’ hastens the day when this slur loses all force in the general community. Then folk may start asking hard questions more often – questions usually left unvoiced for fear of the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Who, for example, owns Plum TV?
Time to boycott Estee Lauder? Why buy from a company associated with the vile Plum TV?
According to Muckety.com which plots relationships, one of Plum TV’s two principals is a gentleman called Barry S. Sternlicht. Sternlicht is on the board of Estée Lauder, as well as the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding.
One might hope that enlightened leadership like that would ensure Plum TV shows the most rudimentary understanding of natural justice. Not so far…
A boycott of Plum TV and Estée Lauder is surely in order, at least until Ms Brodigan gets her job back.
Why put money in the pockets of bigots who treat the majority of humanity as ‘less than equal’?
There’s a TV report about this story, including a brief interview with Chrissie Brodigan, on the WPIX website.