Joe Lhota is campaigning hard to catch up with Democrat Bill de Blasio, but the Republican candidate’s spontaneous, shoe-leather approach took an awkward turn on Tuesday when he dropped in on a Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn during services, and a female reporter and two aides were asked to leave. The reporter, New York Daily News City Hall scribe Erin Durkin, tweeted on Wednesday that the women had been ejected. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein, who was not there, asked others about the scene. “Lhota was walking from block to block and he got to this big synagogue in Borough Park. He went inside and the rabbi asked the females to leave,” The Observer’s Ross Barkan told her. “Durkin of the News and two female Lhota aides, including a press aide, were expelled, in Lhota’s presence,” Bernstein reported.
The brief visit sounds like a case of extremely poor timing, made worse by Lhota’s poor decision. “It wasn’t a planned event but a spontaneous entry as Mr. Lhota was asked by a rabbi to enter the Shul,” Yeshiva World News reporter Jacob Kornbluh told Bernstein. Orthodox synagogues sometimes hold separate services for men and women, and as it happened, Lhota visited during the men’s service. But it was Lhota’s own call to go ahead and check out the service after members of his party had been removed because of their gender.
Lhota’s spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, tried hard to minimize Lhota’s affiliation with the synagogue and its policy: “They were having a service and he just popped in to see. He only stayed for a minute along the way to the next event.” But that little while earned him the kind of uncomfortable situation someone trailing by 44 percentage points can ill afford.