The tweet, which first appeared as a father’s anxious worry for his daughter’s safety, went viral. But it soon became a potential professional liability that led a Texas cardiologist to issue an apology for his inaccurate statements.
Andrea Natale, MD, executive medical director of the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Atrial Fibrillation, shared on Twitter September 13 that his daughter had called him “in tears” because she and her boyfriend had been “attacked by a group of BLM,” who damaged their car and beat her boyfriend. “She filmed it & called the police but they cannot do anything [because] they are African American. Is this the America we want?” he wrote in the now-deleted tweet.
The tweet quickly garnered more than 21,500 retweets and more than 6200 comments. But within 24 hours, Twitter user Jasen had located the 911 dispatch recording from the daughter’s call and charged that either Natale or his daughter was lying.
According to the dispatcher in the recording, a young woman was in a car at the corner of Lombard and President Streets in Baltimore, Maryland, where young Black males known as “squeegee boys” often clean car windshields with squeegees to make money while cars are stopped at traffic lights. The dispatcher says the woman “thinks one of them pulled a knife” and that the boys then began throwing rocks at the car and broke a car window.
The dispatcher follows with another report from a caller who described a male and female at the same corner who got out of their car and began fighting with the “squeegee kids.” Police body camera footage released to The Baltimore Sun the next day reveals a more nuanced version of events.
In the video, Natale’s daughter appears distraught and explains that she asked the boys not to use the squeegees on the car. The man with her, presumably her boyfriend, does not appear to have been physically harmed. He tells the police he got out of the car to confront the boys, who then surrounded him.
“I said, ‘Stop, I will defend myself. I do have a knife on me,’ ” he told the police, after which one of the boys pulled out his own knife. But the boyfriend confirms that “[t]here wasn’t any physical touching on me or them.”
The couple tell the police that the boys then began throwing rocks at the car, breaking the driver’s-side rearview mirror. The police say that they “deal with this all the time.” The couple tell the police that the squeegee boys often “gang up” on drivers and get “very aggressive.” “Is there anything that can be done about those people?” the boyfriend asks the police.
An officer does tell the couple that the city does not want police to engage with the squeegee boys, even though the car washing is illegal, but the police do not say that they “cannot do anything [because] they are African American.” No one in the police body cam footage or on the dispatch radio mentions the Black Lives Matter movement or any protesters.
Natale did not respond personally to a request by theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology for comment, but a spokesperson from St. David’s HealthCare responded on behalf of Natale with his public statement, slightly edited from the one provided to BuzzFeed:
“I sincerely apologize for a tweet I posted this weekend. I was worried about my daughter, and I jumped to a conclusion based on the information I had at the time. I’ve dedicated my entire professional career to healing people from all backgrounds, and I regret that my words created hurt and pain. It was not my intention.”
The spokesperson also included a statement from the institution: “St. David’s HealthCare takes great pride in caring for and serving its community. The healthcare system has long been dedicated to providing exceptional care to every patient every day ― and that care is based on a foundation of inclusion, compassion and respect for everyone.”
It’s unclear how long Natale’s tweet was posted on Twitter, but it was at least 24 hours. After he deleted the tweet, he switched his account from public to private and then deleted his Twitter account.