BROOKLYN — He tweeted so many messages, over so many months, that were so racially, ethnically and religiously offensive that he resigned from being an FDNY emergency medical technician.
So why is Joe Cassano now just days away from becoming a New York City firefighter?
That’s what a group of elected officials, activists and even some firefighters want to know. Many of them suspect that Cassano, as son of a former FDNY commissioner, could have a lot to do with it.
Cassano, 28, resigned in 2013 tweeting such messages as, “News flash to half of the island — ur white! Stop talking like ur a shwoog.” Shwoog is a derogatory term for a person of African descent.
“MLK could go kick rocks for all I care but thanks for the time and a half today,” is another of Cassano’s infamous tweets.
A specifically anti-Semitic tweet was, “I like jews about as much as hitler. #too far? nope!”
That last tweet was read aloud by city council member Jumaane Williams at a news conference of officials and activists in front of FDNY headquarters here on Monday morning.
Organized by the National Action Network, it brought together a handful of activists and city leaders, including a representative of Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, to protest Cassano’s now being allowed to join the ranks of firefighters.
Cassano was allowed to rejoin the EMT ranks of the fire department because he’d resigned, rather than having been fired. It is common for EMTs to transition to firefighter status.
That fact is no solace to Rev. Kirsten John Foy, the president of the National Action Network’s Brooklyn Chapter.
“If you’re a black firefighter,” he told PIX11 News, “or a Jewish firefighter, and this guy is behind you in a burning building, do you feel safe?”
Cassano has, since his infamous tweets from four years ago, apologized multiple times and undergone counseling with the rabbi who ran the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
That is still not convincing some officials and activists.
“An apology is nice,” said Rev. Foy. “But that doesn’t mean he can be trusted with the public’s health.”
Cassano’s father is former Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. That fact adds to the criticism of the induction of the younger Cassano into the ranks of New York’s Bravest.
However, on Monday, Mayor Bill De Blasio defended Joe Cassano’s promotion to firefighter, saying that while Cassano’s tweets were “inexcusable,” the mayor nonetheless “believe[s] in second chances,” and that Cassano deserves one.
However, the mayor added, “If there’s any further incident, it’ll be dealt with very harshly.”
Cassano is expected to be sworn in as a probationary firefighter on December 11th.