New York, NY – The FDNY “Probie” who once Tweeted, “I like Jews about as much as hitler,” as well as a litany of other racist
gems, is splitting the Mayor’s Office and the City Council this week — with many legislators insisting the author of the vile Tweets isn’t fit to be a New York City Firefighter, and Hizzoner, who’s claiming the man has leaned the error of his ways.
Monday was the first day of Fire Academy for Joseph Cassano, the 28-year-old son of retired FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. But on the steps of City Hall, members of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, Jewish Caucus, Vulcan Society and other political action groups, all gathered to call for Cassano’s immediate ouster.
The retired FDNY commissioner’s son, originally quit the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service in 2013 after his racist Tweets initially came to light that year. He was soon reinstated just a short time later, however, after performing a little volunteer work and talking with a rabbi associated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“This situation is very troubling because when we see racism and we don’t act, we are complicit in it,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said. “When we see wrong and don’t stand up for what’s right, we are actually allowing it to happen. And when our city government hires a person who has a known history of racist tweeting, our own government is, therefore, tolerating it and validating it.”
In addition to professing his hatred for people of the Jewish faith, Cassano also once Tweeted, “Getting sick of picking up all these Obama lovers and taking them to the hospital because their medicare pays for an ambulance and not a cab.”
Martin Luther King Day, meanwhile prompted this response from Cassano: “MLK could go kick rocks for all I care, but thanks for the time and a half today.”
“You gotta pass a test…racism and anti-Semitism is a character flaw,” Public Advocate, Letitia James said. “And when one does a psychological background on those who have previously tweeted out…demonstrated their distrust and hate for people who are different, that would suggest to me that you have failed the psychological and you have failed that character test.”
An incredulous City Council Member Andy King [D-12th District] called Cassano the “poster child of bigotry.”
Regina Wilson, head of the Vulcan Society, the fraternal order of Black firefighters formed back in 1940 in direct response to the
bias they’d experienced on the job, expressed concern over Cassano’s ability to safeguard the lives of people in minority communities.
“Just because you’re working in another department, those feelings haven’t gone away,” Wilson said. “I would fear that he is now endangering those communities that these council members serve.”
In addition to reportedly once being suspended from his baseball team because of his racist attitudes, Cassano, along with Robert Gala, son of the FDNY’s chief of uniformed personnel, were placed on restricted duty in 2015 after they reportedly failed to bring an injured Black child to the hospital.
Despite all this, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has said that he believes in “redemption,” and is chalking up Cassano’s racist tweets as “mistakes.”
“FDNY has treated candidates consistently under this administration, and that includes allowing those who’ve made mistakes to join the Department if they’ve shown growth, maturation and remorse for their prior actions,” a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said in an email.
The FDNY’s Francis Gribbon, also expressed support for Cassano’s conversion from bigot to Bravest.
“Mr. Cassano apologized immediately when these comments became public; he subsequently met with a Jewish community leader (rabbi at the Museum of Tolerance); did volunteer work for two non-profits (NY Cares and the Stephen Siller Foundation); and, during the last two years while working as an EMT with FDNY (after his reinstatement), he helped save the lives of two patients he was treating (and is the recipient of “pre-hospital saves” ),” Gribbon said in an email to LaborPress.
Critics, however, are unmoved.
“At a time in our country when we are seeing more hate, it isn’t clear he is truly repentant,” Public Advocate James added. “It
isn’t clear that he has renounced his words or denounced his past bigotry and bias.”
Wilson said Cassano has never actually been “punished for his actions,” or sought reconcilliation from the Black community or the women he also demeaned in tweets.
Cassano’s critics also further express concern about the men and women who are now being asked to serve side-by-side with him in all kinds of life-threatening emergencies.
“We have to give [firefighters] the quality personnel that we know will watch the backs of all firefighters,” Stringer said. “I don’t want our firefighters working with somebody who clearly has very serious issues with people who are not like him. This young man needs a lot of help. If we allow this person to become a firefighter given his history — then I think we have taken a step back.”