Joseph Lhota apologizes for Port Authority 'mall cops' remark

Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota at a news

Republican mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota at a news conference on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan last month. Lhota is apologizing May 8 for saying that Port Authority police were "nothing more than mall cops." (April 1, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Republican mayoral hopeful Joseph Lhota said he's sorry for belittling Port Authority police officers as "nothing more than mall cops," a comment ripped by police unions, pounced upon by rivals and disowned by a prominent supporter.

"I regret my unfortunate characterization of the Port Authority Police Department. It was an inappropriate answer that does not accurately reflect the hard work of its officers," Lhota said in a written apology for his "insensitive remarks."

At a candidates forum Tuesday night, Lhota was asked about combating sex trafficking through Kennedy Airport when visitors swarm the city for the 2014 Super Bowl.

"I don't think the Port Authority does a good enough job in anything that they do, quite honestly, but particularly in the area of security," said Lhota, a former head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "Those cops get paid more than NYPD cops and quite honestly -- and I know I'm going to get in trouble for saying this -- they're nothing more than mall cops."

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who had endorsed Lhota hours earlier, called the comment "wrong" but said Lhota "had a bad day" and "cut his losses by apologizing so quickly."

Police unions were not mollified.

Paul Nunziato, president of the 1,300-member Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, recounted how his officers save bridge jumpers and nab armed robbers.

"Lhota has no clue about what we do, and I am glad he has no chance of being mayor of New York City," he said.

Lhota was a top deputy in the administration of Rudy Giuliani, who waged periodic battles with the authority.

Patrick Lynch, president of the NYPD's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, called Lhota's words an "insult."

"New York City police officers have worked side by side with Port Authority police officers for many years and we have found them to be well-trained and highly experienced professional police officers," a statement from Lynch said. "On 9/11, we searched together for 23 NYPD officers and 37 PAPD officers who sacrificed their own lives while evacuating others to safety."

John Catsimatidis, a rival for the GOP nomination, said of Lhota, "It's sad that the son of an NYPD lieutenant would take verbal shots at the Port Authority police or any law enforcement organization." A statement from another Republican contender, George McDonald, listed the 37 port authority officers who died in the Sept. 11 attacks and said Lhota "owes them an apology."

James Carver, the head of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said he'd tell his 100 or so members who live in the city and families of Nassau cops living in the city not to support Lhota. He called the remarks "an insult to every man and woman who put their lives on the line every day as a police officer."

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