What is it a slap or a pat?
That question is central to an emerging beef between New York City Mayor Eric Adams and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who exchanged barbs and accusations on Tuesday over the arrest of a man accused of “slapping” the former mayor on the back.
Adams suggested at an unrelated press conference Tuesday that Giuliani had exaggerated the details of an encounter with a grocery store worker who appeared to give him a smack on the back while the former mayor was campaigning for his son, Andrew, on Staten Island.
The incident was captured on surveillance footage first published by the New York Post. The former mayor told media outlets that the slap nearly knocked him off his feet while causing him immense pain — a version of events Adams scoffed at Tuesday.
“Someone needs to remind former Mayor Giuliani that falsely reporting a crime is a crime,” Adams told reporters. “And from what he stated about being ‘punched in the head’, ‘felt like a bullet’ … That was a lot of creativity. And I think the district attorney — he has the wrong person that he’s investigating.”
Daniel Gill, 38, was initially charged with assault but the charges were later reduced to misdemeanors after video made clear the exchange was little more than a hearty pat. Giuliani told multiple outlets that a man had walked up to him and greeted him with, “What’s up, scumbag?” before making an apparent criticism of the Supreme Court decision overturning of Roe v. Calf.
Adams said he was “in conversation with the police commissioner” about whether Giuliani had falsely reported the incident.
“When you look at the video, the guy basically walked by and patted him on the back,” Adams said. “I don’t know if he said congratulations. I don’t know what he said to him. But it was clear that he was not punched in the head. It was clear that it didn’t feel like a bullet. It was clear that he wasn’t about to fall to the ground.”
Later Tuesday, Giuliani called Adams an “idiot” in response.
“Mayor Adams is an idiot, because I didn’t file a report,” the former mayor said, later reiterating his stance: “I filed nothing, idiot. So you can’t prosecute me for anything.”
Adams and Giuliani have a complicated history. When the current mayor was an NYPD officer under the Giuliani administration, he was critical of how police targeted Black and Latino New Yorkers. During the 2021 mayoral primaries, Giuliani suggested Adams was the best Democratic candidate — a quasi endorsement the Adams campaign roundly rejected at the time.
Police officials did not immediately respond to a request for more information on the recent incident.
In a statement, Republican gubernatorial nominee Andrew Giuliani said, “New Yorkers know all too well that Mayor Adams is not alarmed by innocent people being assaulted on our streets, subways and supermarkets.”
Attorneys for Gill, the man accused of smacking Giuliani, maintained their client’s innocence in a statement.
“Our client merely patted Mr. Giuliani, who sustained nothing remotely resembling physical injuries, without malice to simply get his attention, as the video footage clearly showed,” a statement from the Legal Aid Society reads.
The statement adds that Gill was “followed and threatened by one of Mr. Giuliani’s associates who allegedly poked Mr. Gill in the chest and told him that he was going to be ‘locked up'” before entering police custody for more than 24 hours.