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‘I am not a racist’: New York lawyer apologizes for rant about Spanish speakers in viral video

New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg has been identified as the man making racist comments at a Manhattan deli on May 15. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

The New York lawyer propelled to ignominy after a video showed him making xenophobic remarks at a deli apologized Tuesday in a brief statement, saying the video did not depict the “real me.”

Aaron Schlossberg said he regretted the hurt he had caused, apologized for the way he expressed himself and said that he is not a racist. But he stopped short of disavowing specifics about his remarks.

“To the people I insulted, I apologize,” Schlossberg wrote in the statement posted to Twitter and LinkedIn. “Seeing myself online opened my eyes — the manner in which I expressed myself is unacceptable and is not the person I am. I see my words and actions hurt people, and for that I am deeply sorry.”

He said that he loved New York for its diversity and “because of immigrants and the diversity of cultures immigrants bring to this country.”

The video became a sensation on social media last week amid the polarizing national debate about race, identity and immigration that has churned so loudly since President Trump’s election.

Schlossberg berated a manager at a deli in midtown Manhattan because the staff were speaking Spanish to customers “when they should be speaking English,” he said. He threatened to call immigration enforcement authorities on the employees, alleging with no evidence beyond the language they were speaking that they were not legal residents of the country.

“My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country,” he said. “If they have the balls to come here and live off my money — I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do — the least they can do — is speak English.”

Schlossberg instantly became a subject of infamy on social media and in the news. Reporters in New York pursued him, confronting him as he hid under an umbrella, during an appearance at a courthouse and on the street. But he declined to answer their questions or apologize for his statements. And video emerged that, other news organizations said, depicted him in previous heated political confrontations: cursing and yelling at an alt-right-affiliated protest, yelling at demonstrators while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in front of Trump Tower, and calling a stranger, a YouTube vlogger, an “ugly … foreigner” with an expletive thrown in.

And many noticed that his website notes that he speaks Spanish and has a phone service set up to serve potential clients in Spanish as well as other languages, an irony that was not lost on many commentators.

Protesters gathered on May 18, outside the home of New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg, who made racist comments at a Manhattan deli. (Video: Adam Daniel Weiss)

Schlossberg, whose website says he has an expertise in commercial and insurance law, was also targeted in a complaint filed by two Democratic elected officials, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who said they believed that as a lawyer, he deserved to be reprimanded by the court system for the behavior depicted in the video.

Lawyer who threatened to call ICE about Spanish speakers is now target of complaint

The New York state court system’s rules of professional conduct stipulate that lawyers can face consequences for various types of misconduct, including engaging “in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice”; stating or implying an ability to improperly influence any legislative body or public official; discriminating in the hiring, promoting or determining of other employment issues in the practice of law; and engaging “in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer.”