The story of a homeless man given a pair of boots by NYPD officer Larry DePrimo last year was a viral bit of joy for many social media users when a pic snapped by a Times Square tourist was mega-shared — but the New York Post claims that the homeless man was neither destitute nor even homeless. (When the story broke, City officials confirmed the man was not currently homeless but was at risk.)
The paper has been consistently blasted for a conservative slant, and the op-ed post making the allegations about the allegedly homeless man who received new boots from DePrimo in the viral pic certainly promotes some ideological opinions about poverty and helping the poor in general.
An article titled “Give him the boot,” begins by saying, ” … now turns out that Jeffrey Hillman, the barefoot beggar who famously received a free pair of boots from a big-hearted police officer, not only has an apartment but pockets as much as several hundred dollars a day while pretending to be homeless,” adding that “Hillman freely admitted as much to a team of Post reporters who followed him home on the subway Sunday — and then watched as he calmly counted a huge wad of bills.”
Going on to note the “supposedly homeless man” is said to own dozens of pairs of shoes (without explaining how the Post came to know this, whether anyone saw these shoes, or if they were donations or new purchases), the piece immediately feeds into the idea that the very poor are possibly faking the ravages of poverty or homelessness to get in on the lucrative spare change racket.
The Post piece — which runs in the opinion section but without a byline — goes on to suggest that doubts about the genuine poverty of any given ostensibly homeless person are valid, sniffing:
“Most New Yorkers will doubtless be disappointed to learn that the inspiring tale of a police officer’s kindness to a man in distress would have such a cynical denouement. Few, however, will be surprised. Even so, there is a moral to this story that is especially timely.”
The conclusion drawn is that any measure of kindness should be doled out with suspicion:
“When the NYPD’s Larry DePrimo bought those now-famous boots, he represented the best of this city. People such as Jeffrey Hillman remind us that when the greedy take advantage, there’s more cynicism about giving — and less help to go around for those truly in need.”
What the piece lacks is any solid information about the Post‘s alleged investigation of Hillman — and the reporting seems to run contrary to previous coverage in the paper in which relatives of the homeless man who received the boots seemed to confirm he had been known to be in need of assistance, even when not homeless.
Do you think the story of the NYPD cop giving a seemingly homeless man boots was inspiring, or were you cynical about the whole thing like the Post?