Newly elected northeast Queens Councilwoman Vickie Paladino walked back an explosive comment made during an interview on NY1 about her refusal to disclose her COVID-19 vaccination status to City Council officials last week.
“I don’t need to show my papers. This is not Nazi Germany,” Paladino said during that interview.
On Tuesday, Paladino said she made the “ill-considered and inappropriate comparison” during an hours-long interview, and asked that it be struck from the record, but took “complete ownership of that mistake.”
“While my intent was to illustrate that requiring residents to show medical papers to earn a living or do everyday activities is an authoritarian practice that does not align with this country’s principles, it is never OK to compare anything to the evil of Nazi Germany,” Paladino said in a statement. “I apologize to those who were genuinely offended by my comment.”
She added that she would meet with local Jewish officials and her friends in the Jewish community in the coming days to discuss the matter.
The controversy arose nearly a week after Paladino was refused entry to the City Council’s first stated meeting of the new year.
The 67-year-old Republican refused to disclose her COVID-19 vaccination status and was told by officials she would be barred from the chamber floor on Wednesday, Jan. 5. There has been no resolution to the standoff, and Paladino continues to oppose any effort to require people to disclose their vaccination status as a condition of employment or for any other reason.
“The idea that we are now essentially blackmailing people by threatening their jobs and their livelihoods is what is eroding public trust in vaccines,” said Robert Hornak, a Paladino spokesman. “People should be allowed to make their own decision on their healthcare. And nobody should be forced to disclose their personal medical information to anyone. Everyone has a right to privacy and that includes medical privacy. We will continue to stand up for that right as long as people are trying to use heavy-handed tactics to force their will on others.”
After she was denied entry, Paladino wrote on Twitter that she had cast her vote in the race for Council speaker remotely. She later spoke with Speaker Adrienne Adams and explained that she would not make it an issue that day.
“I also made it clear that this courtesy would only be for today, and that I will fight the mandates with every resource available,” Paladino tweeted. “Not just the Council mandates, but throughout the city. Going forward, if anyone has a problem with me in the chamber, they will have to remove me.”
Paladino defeated Democrat Tony Avella last November in the race to represent District 19, which encompasses her native Whitestone, College Point, Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston and parts of North Flushing. Her standoff with the City Council will likely continue until the next stated meeting later this month.
A City Council spokesperson indicated the rules will remain the same, and that they don’t apply just to the Council chamber.
“In the wake of the order issued by the city’s health commissioner requiring city employees to be vaccinated, the City Council adopted a policy in the fall that no one who works at the Council is permitted to work at City Hall, 250 Broadway, or any Council district office unless they have provided proof of vaccination,” the spokesperson said. “That remains the policy of the City Council. There will be no exceptions absent a valid request for a medical or religious accommodation. The protection of the health and safety of our staff and Council members is the highest priority to the Council.”
This story was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 4:50 p.m.