By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a critic of the Ground Zero mosque development to go to a library and consult the Bill of Rights Tuesday, as the controversy followed him all the way to Philadelphia.
At a press conference announcing his endorsement of Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, who is running for senate, Bloomberg faced a barrage of questions about the plans to build a mosque near the 9-11 site, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The organizers of the mosque and cultural center, named Park51, have said they will move forward with the project despite opposition.
When a man, identified by the Journal as outspoken Park 51 critic Dr. Robert B. Sklaroff, asked Bloomberg to respond to comments made by the project's organizers that Sklaroff "described as anti-American," the mayor reportedly shot back.
“Look, I would suggest you go from here directly to the library,” Bloomberg was quoted as saying. “Get a copy of the Bill of Rights and you’ll realize that everybody has a right to say what they want to say.”
“I happen to believe that that is the most important right that we have: to say what we want to say, which includes praying to whomever we want in any place we want, in any manner we want," he continued.
“You know, our firefighters and police officers ran into two Twin Towers, they didn’t ask anybody what you believe,” he said. “They just went in.”
Wendell R. Whitlock, who introduced Bloomberg, said he was disappointed by the distraction.
The discussion, he told the paper, should have focused on Pennsylvania and “not some political contrived crap about somebody building a mosque in New York City when there’s already one there, two porn shops, three strip joints and several liquor store. Gimme a break.”
Sestak, meanwhile, reiterated his support of the right for the mosque to exist.