NEW YORK – Elected officials, media personalities and Jewish organizations issued condemnations on Thursday over Wednesday night's assault on Orthodox journalist Jacob Kornbluh in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn during a protest against new coronavirus restrictions.
Kornbluh, who covers national politics for the Jewish Insider website and is himself a Borough Park resident, has urged compliance with city and state requirements in New York regarding the wearing of masks as well as social distancing guidelines since the start of the pandemic.
He has been particularly vocal on the issue since the spring, when community compliance slackened. Since then, Kornbluh has been condemned by members of the community who accuse him of reporting their violations of regulations to the authorities.
In Wednesday night’s attack, Kornbluh was pushed against a wall by a large crowd and, according to his account later on Twitter, was “hit in the head, and kicked at by an angry crowd of hundreds of community members of the Borough Park protest,” who called him “Nazi” and “Hitler.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo noted at a press briefing Thursday that he had contacted Kornbluh. “I just wanted to say to him that I was sorry for what he went through,” Cuomo said. “There is no excuse for violence, especially against a reporter.”
Kornbluh was extracted from the crowd by members of the community and police officers at the scene, and did not sustain any lasting injuries. But the assault came after months of incitement against him by right-wing radio host and activist Heshy Tischler, who led protests on Tuesday and Wednesday night against Governor Cuomo’s new COVID-19 restrictions.
The new restrictions call for the partial shutdown of neighborhoods with high rates of infection, including Orthodox neighborhoods where the virus is spreading quickly.
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“This is a person who is doing his job,” Governor Cuomo said of Kornbluh. “It was disgusting behavior frankly.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Tischler uploaded a video of himself standing in a cemetery, calling Kornbluh an “evil snitch” who “calls the mayor and rats on us.” Tischler also called the reporter a “murderer” who “hates the Jewish community,” and falsely claimed that Kornbluh, who is originally from London, came to the United States illegally.
Tischler also said he plans to run for a seat on New York city council.
Witnesses to the assault alleged that Tischler explicitly directed the crowd to attack Kornbluh, who has filed charges against Tischler and others with the New York police department.
On Thursday, Tischler took to Twitter to allege that "Kornbluh made up a lie that he was brutally assaulted, which is untrue, ran to the media and cried. He got his negative attention and has now changed the story that someone spit on him. He will do anything to get the community condemned and called out. He has no low."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also condemned the incident, describing it as “absolutely unacceptable.”
“Disgusting, really,” he said. “Here's a journalist who really cares about doing the work of informing people [about] what's going on and here's a mob of people attacking him. It’s just unacceptable. There need to be consequences for that."
Among the city officials who joined the mayor and governor in condemning the incident was city council Speaker Corey Johnson, who called it “horrifying and reprehensible” on Twitter. “All those involved in this vile act must be held accountable.”
For his part, the city's comptroller, Scott Stringer tweeted on Thursday that “what happened to Jacob Kornbluh last night was despicable and completely unacceptable.”
Representative Jerry Nadler called the incident “terrifying” and said that “while this may be a small minority within a small community, it is disgusting and those responsible must be held to account for such violence.”
Representative Max Rose said Kornbluh “showed tremendous bravery in a dangerous and terrifying situation,” and added, “We cannot allow violence against journalists or anyone to be tolerated, encouraged, or go unpunished.”
Media representatives also expressed their support on Thursday. CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted the word “unacceptable” in response to the attack.
Among the Jewish organizations that reacted to the incident, the Jewish Democratic Council of America called it “horrifying and inexcusable.”
“Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of assault,” the group tweeted. “Jacob, you're a pillar of the Jewish community. We stand with you, and we demand those responsible be held accountable.”
The American Jewish Committee said it was “shocked and horrified” over the incident, and wished Kornbluh "a speedy recovery and call for the swift apprehension of his attackers,”
The World Jewish Congress called the attack “wrong, shocking, and absolutely inexcusable. We must protect the rights of journalists to cover the news in person and unharmed.”
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the attack, and said that “violence and incitement are inexcusable.”
The CEO of the Jewish group Community Security Service, Evan Bernstein, said his organization stands with Kornbluh “in ensuring your safety and security as you continue doing great reporting on important issues,” in remarks directed to him.