NY Post under fire for 'mocking' Hasid's murder
Newspaper draws harsh criticism after asking in front-page headline, 'Who didn't want him dead?' following brutal killing of Jewish landlord Menachem Stark. 'The entire community is outraged by such a vulgar headline that is so offensive and horrific,' says NYC Councilman Stephen Levin
The picture of 39-year-old Menachem Stark, a Satmar Hasid from Williamsburg who was abducted as he left his office during Thursday's snowstorm and was later found dead on Long Island, appeared on the NY Post cover under the headline, "Who didn't want him dead?"
Stark was defined in the report as a "slumlord" – a derogatory term for a landlord in poor neighborhoods, who attempts to maximize profit by minimizing spending on property maintenance.
According to the article, "He had so many enemies that investigators say they almost don’t know where to start looking." The NY Post quoted a law-enforcement source describing the father of eight as "embroiled in several 'shad' real-estate transactions and being up to his tuchus in debt."
"He’s a Hasidic Jew from Williamsburg, and we think he’s a scammer," another investigator said of Stark.
"Stark left behind a trail of angry tenants from more than a dozen residential properties, mostly in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, along with an untold number of unpaid contractors and angry business associates," the newspaper quoted investigators as saying.
'Mocking kidnapping and brutal murder'
The US haredi community was deeply insulted by the coverage. Brooklyn politicians and Hasidic leaders referred to the report as "offensive" and "insensitive" and demanded an apology from the NY Post.
Simcha Felder, a New York State senator, said that "the Post must issue an immediate apology to the Stark family and to all New Yorkers for its egregious behavior and failure to exercise any judgment whatsoever in this matter.
"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the incredibly insensitive and crass cover of today’s New York Post which mocks the kidnapping and brutal murder of Menachem Stark," he added.
The report provoked angry responses on Twitter. One person tweeted, "It's heart-wrenching that this is leading the @nypost website today. 'Who DIDN'T want him dead?' SHAME ON YOU!"
"I am deeply disturbed by the cover of the New York Post, "who didn't want him dead." How about this young boy?!" wrote Yaacov Behrman, who added a photo of one of Stark's orphans.
A special Twitter page against the paper, StopNYPostHate#, called on readers to cancel their subscriptions.
'Community still mourning his dead'
NYC Councilman Stephen Levin referred to the headline as "vulgar," adding that “the New York Post’s unbelievably offensive headline this morning comes the day after Mr. Stark’s family and children, as well as an entire community, laid him to rest and are still mourning his death.
"For the New York Post to suggest that a person deserved to be murdered is sickening and reaches a new low. The entire community is outraged by such a vulgar headline that is so offensive and horrific."
Assemblyman Dov Hikind issued a statement saying, "I understand that the New York Post wants to sell papers and that they are willing to sacrifice the standards of propriety from time to time. But there is a difference between bad taste and just plain indecency.
"The pain that this headline caused to not only a man’s family but to the entire Jewish community is indescribable and was so unnecessary. It was a heartless act that should never have been allowed. It was truly beneath contempt."
A spokesman for the NY Post said in response that the paper’s reporting simply pointed out that basic fact.
"The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die, but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of loss."
Newly-elected Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams appeared unimpressed by the response. "The mere fact that someone had enemies does not explain away their kidnapping and murder, nor does it excuse a front-page cover that asked, 'Who didn’t want him dead?'
"To truly express remorse, the Post must publish a formal apology to the Stark family in tomorrow’s paper; that is the bare minimum we should accept," he said.
“Who did not want him dead? Who didn’t? His children did not want him dead,” added Adams, speaking at his first major event since taking office. “Residents of this city didn’t want him dead. Most important, his son didn’t want him dead.”
$10,000 reward for information on killersNassau County Police say Stark's body was found Friday evening in a trash bin at a gas station in Great Neck. Police believe was grabbed by two people as he left his realty office in Brooklyn at about 11:30 pm Thursday.
A security camera recorded the struggle. The video showed the kidnappers wrestling Stark into a Dodge Caravan and driving away. Police say he may have been carrying a large amount of cash.
Stark left behind eight children and a shocked community. The Brooklyn Borough President announced that anonymous donors in the Hasidic community had offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to Stark’s killers.
Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, said: “The community mourns the death of our beloved community member Menachem Stark, and our prayers are with his family who loved and cared for him immensely.
"Menachem Stark was a charitable man, donating to institutions and needy individuals alike, and everyone in the community is devastated and feels this loss on a personal level."
The Associated Press contributed to this report