ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Responding to the allegations that they hosted a racist Juneteenth spoof party, Mary and Dr. Nicholas Nicosia held a press conference Tuesday morning.
The July 7 event caught public attention when Black Rochester Fire Department firefighter Jerrod Jones said he and two other subordinates were forced to attend the function while on the clock, by their captain, Jeffrey Krywy.
Dr. Nicosia, a prominent local dentist, already issued a statement for himself and his wife on Aug. 12, saying they “strongly disagree with how we are being characterized.” In the same letter, he announced that he agreed to resign from the Highland Hospital board of directors.
Following an investigation from the city, Captain Krywy has retired from RFD before termination proceedings began.
The conference was led by the Nicosia’s lawyer, Corey Hogan, who repeatedly said that his defendants did not break any laws. Hogan detailed the party decorations, arguing that his clients were not racist nor legally guilty of anything. Jones has filed a lawsuit with the city over what he feels was mismanagement of his complaint and while the Nicosias are named as party hosts in that Notice of Claim against the city, they are not being sued.
Mary Nicosia then admitted that she runs a racist Twitter parody account, apologizing, and blaming Twitter culture. Dr. Nicosia followed her, discussing how “cancel culture” has changed his life, his office, and his family, for the worse.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans, celebrated on June 19. At the beginning of the conference, Hogan displayed a photo of the invitation, arguing that it was not a Juneteenth party, but a “Liberal Bashing Party” instead. He said that this wording had been written on the invitation.
Jones says that upon arriving at the party, he noticed a large cutout of former President Donald Trump, two large Juneteenth flags, and nearby, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hogan denies that there were two large flags, and provided recreated photos that he asked the couple to set up following the incident. These allegedly depicted the Juneteenth memorabilia present at the party, saying that there was only one small Juneteenth flag, which was nine inches by nine inches. Towards the end of the conference, Mary Nicosia also referenced “a small string that was hung on the bar” related to Juneteenth.
“Kentucky Fried Chicken — there’s 27,000 franchises of Kentucky Fried Chicken in the world, 4,000 in this country,” he said. “Is everybody that pulls in to the Kentucky fried chickens — that the Nicosia’s do probably every couple weeks — are they a racist?”
Jones adds there was a woman in a red wig calling herself Rachel — which he claims was an impersonation of Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart — while party attendees shouted comments in her direction. Mary Nicosia confirmed the presence of such a woman, calling it akin to a Saturday Night Live sketch.
In addition, Jones says he saw photos of other Democratic politicians and Rochester Police Accountability Board members on stakes planted throughout the backyard. Hogan provided a recreated photo of a game of cornhole set up in the backyard, with small posters set up behind the cornhole. In the posters, he identifies Barnhart and Mary Lupien, Vice President of City Council and representative for the East District.
“Look at those signs, that must be against the law, a couple political posters up there,” Hogan said sarcastically. “Consistent with the invitation: Liberal bashing party.”
Additionally, Hogan said that Captain Krywy was provided a gift bag containing a bottle of Hennessey Cognac at the party by another guest.
“[Hennessey] has a racial undertone to it,” Hogan said. “The Nicosia knew nothing about it, it was given away a small bottle as a prize. No racism.”
Mary Nicosia Statement
“I’m here to defend myself of false claims of racism, but before I do that, in full disclosure: I do have a Twitter parody account, that operates under a veil of a persona, and I have made blatantly racist comments under that persona,” Mary Nicosia began after taking the podium.
She pointed to the “culture of Twitter,” which allows a user to make comments under a persona. Hogan said that she had several Twitter handles, but did not specify what they were, saying they will address that in the future.
“For these comments, I’d like to apologize to the African-American community, and other people in the community that I have hurt or offended by doing what I was doing on Twitter […] Making a comment under a persona on Twitter is just as wrong, hurts just as much, as saying it directly to someone in the room,” she said. “And I think it’s a lesson learned certainly for me, and I think others can learn from the lesson.”
Towards the end of the conference, Mary Nicosia was asked how, if she runs a racist Twitter account, she would not know of the connotations KFC and Hennessey have. Mary Nicosia said that while she is “aware” of the reputation of KFC, it was not the reason it was in her home, saying that it’s an easy meal.
Nicosia argued that she is not a racist person, citing that she grow up in East Cleveland, a diverse community. She challenged attendees to find a member of the community who would say she is racist.
Mary Nicosia said that within two hours of the press conference that broke the news about the party, she had been cut off from the Landmark Society, and was suspended from her position on the Board of Directors. Through tears, she discussed the “cancel culture” her family has experienced, citing “constant, unprovoked” attacks on her children at college.
“I’m not a perfect person, I’ll admit it. But my husband, I’ll tell you, he is,” she said, saying that she feels her choice to host a private party has ruined her family’s lives.
“I will likely have this pain and guilt with me, and anger, for a long time, if not the rest of my life.”
Dr. Nicholas Nicosia Statement
“I never really understood cancel culture, until I experienced the speed that this organized, malicious, well-orchestrated, politically charged attack happened,” Dr. Nicosia said. “We were tried and convicted on social media, and a false narrative was created.”
Dr. Nicosia — who said at one point he is a registered Democrat — said that many patients have left his office following the incident, and the office has received hateful phone calls. He said people have been making disparaging fake Twitter accounts of him following the incident, and cited the impact his office’s Google rating has taken.
He spoke at length about the viciousness of cancel culture, saying that supporters are afraid to speak up for fear of backlash.
“It took me 32 years to build my reputation, and less than two hours to destroy it,” Dr. Nicosia said. “Am I perfect? No. But I try to live my life by example, and would help anyone who needed it.”
He cited the philanthropic ventures he and his wife have taken, and their involvement with soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, and other volunteer work.
“But that doesn’t matter. And I think what hurts the most is patients, people, and organizations that have known us for a long time, who merely believed the racist narrative,” Dr. Nicosia said. “We are not racist.”
Dr. Nicosia cited friends and family who would support him if they were able to speak “freely, without fear of retribution.”
“The only thing I hate more than racism, are false racist allegations. So I ask you, please, put aside this fabricated narrative of this snooty couple who lives in a big mansion […] We’re not giving up on Rochester. We’re not giving up on humanity. We’ll focus our volunteer efforts to any organization or individuals that want us or need us.”
Throughout the conference, the Nicosias stated repeatedly they would never want someone to feel uncomfortable in their home. When the firemen arrived, Dr. Nicosia said he welcomed all four, with both he and his wife thanking them for their service.
The two regularly said they are not racist, and had they thought the party was racist in nature, they would have behaved differently, as this incident was not reflective of their values.
“I didn’t see anything that was racist at all, or that was inappropriate,” Dr. Nicosia said.
Nate McMurray, who is representing Jones in his lawsuit against the City of Rochester and the Rochester Fire Department, tweeted a statement Tuesday after the press conference, saying, “The Nicosia’s verified everything in our complaint. In addition they verified that they operate a racist Twitter account. We will use their press conference as evidence going forward.”