In the blood sport of social media, when a headline-grabbing lawyer or a self-trumpeting politician throws down the race card, the accused "racist" gets into even more trouble denying the charge.
The media salivate over the slaughter.
A dentist in Rochester, N.Y. became collateral damage in one such kerfuffle, and on Aug. 8, 2023 he filed a lawsuit in state court against two of his tormentors, alleging defamation and tortious interference in his business due to "the hate crime hoax perpetrated against him."
Nicholas (Ned) Nicosia has served thousands of patients in Rochester since 1987, when he joined the family practice started by his father in 1956.
His name came up in a lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of a Black firefighter, alleging 15 years of racial harassment on the job.
Although Nicosia wasn’t a defendant in the suit, he was cited as hosting a supposedly racist party in July 2022, which the fireman was "forced" to attend.
Instantly he received an avalanche of hate messages and threats by text, email and social media.
One helpful heckler suggested he should kill himself.
Four of his employees quit under the strain.
Four of his employees quit under the strain.
The fallout cost Nicosia $195,000 in lost revenue last year, and his business’s value is down by five million dollars, his lawsuit says.
Some 400 of his patients quit, a 30% plunge, and all but five of them were white: they feared getting cancelled, too, Nicosia told me.
"The sad reality is that, if I wasn’t self-employed, I would be unemployed. My wife and I don’t deserve the death sentence they gave to us," Nicosia says.
"I may never get my life back, but I want to get the truth out there and make sure that it doesn’t happen to somebody else."
You can hear my interview with Ned Nicosia on the latest episode of my podcast, "What’s Bugging Me" on Ricochet.
Nicosia is a moderate Democrat whose wife is a staunch Republican.
They hosted a party for 10 people on July 7, 2022.
The party theme was to make fun of local Democrats; the decorations included a large picture of President Trump.
Guests dined on pasta salad, pizza, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese.
A local fire captain and three on-duty firemen visited the party, stayed a while and left without incident. Weeks later, a staffer returned from her lunch hour one day to tell Nicosia: "Doctor, you’re on television!"
"And that’s how I found out about it," he says.
"And that’s part of it, to catch me off guard, which is why it’s called 'firehosing,' because you don’t have any time to react. And then you’re just backpedaling."
A local tort lawyer, Nathan McMurray, had just staged a press conference to announce a new lawsuit against the City of Rochester and its fire department.
It alleges 15 years of racial harassment of a black firefighter— one of the firemen at Nicosia’s party weeks earlier.
The complaint, 41 paragraphs in, describes the party as a racist gathering spoofing Juneteenth. A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken served at the party was a "racist trope to ridicule Black Americans."
The lawsuit claims the Black fireman "experienced immediate unease upon arriving at the location. His discomfort intensified as he proceeded up the driveway and saw a sizable cutout of former President Donald Trump, a figure known for race baiting and divisiveness."
So, a firefighter who runs into burning buildings was unnerved by a Trump photo? As for photos of local Democrats held up by sticks planted in Nicosia’s yard, the lawsuit says: "They literally had Democrats’ heads on stakes."
Which would have been gruesome, indeed.
Moments after the presser ended, local newspaper articles ran online, publishing Nicosia’s name and address and the name of his business.
"And that was all immediate. So I felt like I was treading water, trying to save my practice and protect my family," the dentist says.
This was by design. The tort attorney, McMurray, cued up the lawsuit a day earlier on Twitter: "Black Rochester Firefighter Forced to Attend Juneteenth Spoof Party While on Duty." His ally, local pol Rachel Barnhart, tweeted: "It’s really easy to cancel the Nicosias."
Ned Nicosia now has sued them both.
"I thought this was about racism," he says, but it was about politics: his political donations were revealed in this flap, showing he had contributed to the 2022 campaign of La'Ron Singletary, a local black Republican candidate for Congress.
And then Singletary’s opponent, Joseph Morelle, the white Democrat incumbent, criticized him for taking a donation from a supposed racist: Ned Nicosia, his lawsuit recounts.
"I’ve never seen the race card played before by a middle-aged white politician against a Black candidate. But he did, and that was interesting," Nicosia says drolly.
La’Ron Singletary, the Black Republican, lost the race.
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York and host of the podcast, "What's Bugging Me." Previously, he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.
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