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Mayor Blasts Homeless Advocates and Supports Suspended TV Anchor

January 22, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mayor Edward I. Koch defended a local television anchor suspended from his job for strident questioning of a homeless woman who refused aid, saying civil liberties advocates should be defending the reporter, not the woman.

Advocates for the homeless are trying to destroy the city’s assistance program, Koch also said in testimony before a legislative ad hoc committee on the homeless. The city’s guidelines for the mentally ill homeless permit the temporary incarceration in a psychiatric ward of people who appear to be a danger to themselves or others.

″The advocates ... are Machiavellian and have an agenda to bring down the whole system,″ Koch said Thursday in testifying before an Ad Hoc Committee on the Homeless of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

″You break the system by saying the system is no good, the system cannot be repaired, cannot be improved. Then change it.″

The mayor said that advocates for the homeless tell the homeless they don’t have to comply with the city’s program to take people off the streets if they seem to be mentally ill. ″Why do they tell them that?″ Koch said. ″I don’t know what the plot is.″

On Wednesday, John Roland, an anchor on WNYW’s 10 O’Clock News, was suspended following a combative interview with Joyce Brown, the first woman picked up under Koch’s program to involuntarily pick up the mentally ill homeless.

Miss Brown, who goes by the name Billie Boggs, had just been released after 84 days in the psychiatric wing at Bellevue Hospital.

Roland told the woman, who successfully fought in court to be released, that she probably would be dead if the city had not forced her into a hospital.

″In fact, if the Civil Liberties Union were doing its job, it would rush in and say they were suppressing his right as a reporter,″ Koch said, adding that court-appointed doctors had said Miss Brown ″is suffering from paranoia, schizophrenia and other mania.″

″He sat there for a half an hour and made 16 different comments to how the advocates want to bring the system down,″ said George McDonald, president of the not-for-profit Doe Fund named after a homeless woman who died in Grand Central Terminal in 1985.

″The advocates want to improve the system and get the people off of the street, something the mayor has no concept of.″

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