New York state of mind

Both subway delays and homicides are up in the Big Apple and a Fox News hosts lays both at the feet of the mayor. (istockphoto)
Both subway delays and homicides are up in the Big Apple and a Fox News hosts lays both at the feet of the mayor. (istockphoto)

We fact-checked two claims recently that focused on crime and New York.

New York City writer Fran Lebowitz made a bold claim while criticizing former Mayor Rudy Giuliani on a recent installment of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

"When Giuliani was the mayor, every five minutes an unarmed black guy was shot in the back. Constantly, you know, and it was always a different excuse from the cops," she said. " ‘He had something in his hand, I thought it was a gun.’ It was a candy bar. ‘He had something in his hand, I thought it was a gun.’ It was a keychain."

Maher said, "Well, that hasn't changed, and that's not just New York."

"In the entire time I've lived in New York, which has been many decades, not a single unarmed white person has been shot by the police," Lebowitz said. "Not one. Not one. You think the odds would be? Not one. So that is the reason they're shot, period."

We checked the claim that "not a single unarmed white person has been shot by the police" in the entire time Lebowitz has lived in New York, finding it False.

This was a bear of fact-check to wrestle to the ground, in part because of the lack of cooperation from the New York Police Department, in part because we were looking at a time period that spanned about 45 years, and in part because it is clear that African-Americans and Hispanics were clearly shot at by New York police much more than whites.

All that said, an analysis of police data show police shot dozens of unarmed white people during the early 1970s, the early side of Lebowitz’s life in New York City. While we wish we had complete data on police shootings by each victim’s race and armed status for the 1980s on, we don’t necessarily need it to judge Lebowitz’s particular statement.

It is very accurate to say blacks are shot at more often by police than whites. But that is not what Lebowitz said. She said "not a single unarmed white person has been shot," and that is not true.

Fox News pundit Greg Gutfield, meanwhile, took on current Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"Unless you’re a well off liberal, it’s been a bad year for New York City," Gutfeld said. "Shootings are way up, homicides too by 20 percent. Subway delays have soared by 45 percent."

Those claims rate Mostly False.

Gutfield is guilty of extreme cherry picking with the murder statistic. A full year assessment of de Blasio’s administration would show that the murder rate is holding about steady compared to the year before he took office.

As for the increased suffering of subway riders, it is real, but a large portion of that falls outside of de Blasio’s direct control. The state wields final authority over the trains, not the city. And while de Blasio could press to add more city funds, he doesn’t control the budget and his representatives represent less than a quarter of the votes on the MTA board.