NYCLASS and PETA Demand Apology After Re-Releasing 2009 Video of Carriage Driver Calling Protester a Whore

A still from the video.
The two most prominent animal rights groups pushing for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City are holding a press conference today, calling for an apology from a carriage driver who they say hurled "racist, sexist hate speech in Spanish at a Latina who merely expressed concern for his horse." According to a release, New York City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez will join members of NYCLASS and PETA, the animal rights groups, on the steps of City Hall today at 1 p.m., asking the City Council to "demand a public apology from the carriage industry."

Their press release doesn't mention, however, that the incident they're referring to, between the carriage driver, who NYCLASS and PETA identify as Frank Rodden, and an anti-carriage protester named Claudia Rose Emerson, took place in 2009. The 45-second clip released by PETA earlier this week is part of a five-minute video released in 2009 by a group called Heart for Animal Rights.

The press release, issued by the public relations firm Goldin Solutions, which has been retained by NYCLASS, positions the incident as having occurred more recently, writing, "This is the second high-profile case of hate speech by carriage drivers. In 2012, Speaker Christine Quinn rebuked the horse carriage industry after a driver was caught on video spewing anti-gay and racist slurs." Despite the wording of the release, Goldin Solutions maintains that it was not attempting to characterize the 2009 incident as having taken place recently.

"The Village Voice's inaccurate and irresponsible inference is not at all the implication of what we sent," John Eddy, a company spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to the Voice. The entire press release can be read here.

It also includes a copy of a letter sent earlier this week to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, asking "that the City Council take action against Rodden's hateful speech by demanding a public apology from the carriage industry."

In the 45-second video released by PETA, the man identified as Rodden calls Emerson a whore in Spanish ("puta") and tells her to "return to your country and give food to the children in the streets, please." Later, in English, he asks if she's married with children or "barren," adding, "Are you barren? Childless? Lonely?" Referring to another protester standing nearby, he adds, "This one might have six or seven kids. What can I tell you?" Rodden, 51, is one of several carriage drivers who co-own the Clinton Park Stables, the city's largest stable.

Here's that video:

(The subtitles provided by PETA are accurate.)

Heart for Animal Rights has disabled embedding on the five-minute video, but you can watch it here. There's no question it's the same incident.

When the Voice asked NYCLASS spokesperson Allie Feldman when the video was shot, she confirmed that it is from 2009.

So why ask for an apology now, five years later?

"After years of Frank Rodden hurling racist, sexist comments, Claudia didn't want to publicly identify herself till now," Feldman replied. "When Frank, who co-owns the most prominent carriage stable, started publicly portraying himself as an ambassador for the industry, posing with Liam Neeson and claiming he's a blue collar family man."

A spokesperson for the carriage industry, Christina Hansen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Voice. In the past, however, she has said that other anti-carriage videos released by PETA contain "old, tired, and false material."

Update, 3 p.m.: Edita Birnkrant, the director of another animal rights group, Friends of Animals, writes to say that the carriage drivers have a pattern of bad behavior. She disputes that the age of the videos is an issue. "I think the date of these events are irrelevant because we're showing a pattern of fairly recent, consistent behavior and incidents in which this constant disrespectful, abusive behavior was captured on camera," she says.

More from Birnkrant on the following page, as well as statements from carriage industry spokersperson Christina Hansen and the Teamsters union, which represents many of the drivers.

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