This morning, the New York Daily News published a story titled: “Black fashion student says Hasidic men attacked him, shouted anti-gay slurs in Williamsburg”. The story’s subhead reads:
“’He told me to ‘stay down, f—-t, stay the f— down.’ ‘ — Taj Patterson, a New York City College of Technology student, says more that [sic] a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jewish men brutalized him on Flushing Ave.”
The authors of the piece do not directly question the validity of the claim, but they do include details which they must have expected would generate skepticism among the readership. The open questions should have been enough to prevent a responsible editor from publishing the article. Most notably:
“Patterson was ‘highly intoxicated, uncooperative and incoherent,’ after the assault, according to a police complaint — but he remembers the ringleader.”
Further, the attack occurred on December 1 at 4:30 a.m. — nine days ago. And December 1 was a Sunday, necessitating that a gang of Hasidic Jews would have been out gay-bashing in the dead of night just hours after observing the Sabbath.
The story was also covered today in a video segment by NBC News with an accompanying article that was more careful about mentioning the alleged Hasids: “Brooklyn Gang Assault Leaves 22-Year-Old Man With Broken Eye Socket, Torn Retina”. This NBC article also includes a quote from New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an advocate for the Hasidic community, who is not convinced:
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the Borough Park section of Brooklyn but is a vocal advocate for Hasidic Jews across the borough, said “something obviously happened” to Patterson, but the allegation was “bizarre.”
It “sounds so out of character,” Hikind said.
And then there’s this:
The NYPD says the hate crimes unit is investigating. Patterson was drunk the night of the assault, and it took several days to piece together the facts, they say.
Further, the victim’s mother, Zahra Patterson, claims four witnesses have come forward. However, the NYDN article only mentions one witness, MTA bus driver Evelyn Keys. And, strangely, Keys’ statement to the NYDN has her mentioning the victim by his first name, implying she had some degree of familiarity with him prior to giving the quote. The article does not say when she gave this quote:
Evelyn Keys, an MTA bus driver, was rounding the corner of Flushing Ave. and Spencer St. when she saw the horrific attack unfold before her eyes.
“I get out of the bus and all these men were standing up straight around him,” says Keys. “Taj is laying down on his back. I went up to him and he was in so much pain. He says, ‘I can’t see … I can’t breathe.’
I have been unable to locate evidence of a similar incident, ever, involving a gang of violent Hasidic men committing an unprovoked nighttime beating in Williamsburg. This would be the first such incident.
Assemblyman Hikind’s statement should carry significant weight: he is the single most active spokesman for the New York Hasidic community. It is not a tremendously large population, and I would be shocked to find he was not aware of a sizable group of violent criminals existing within it.
Checking the background of the article’s authors uncovers another interesting fact: the NYDN article gives the byline to three authors; the first two named are Columbia J-School students with zero prior bylines for the paper.
Considering the reticence the Daily News has had in reporting the race of attackers and victims in recent “knockout” incidents, why were they so quick to risk potential embarrassment by running this victim’s unsubstantiated story?