New York Mayor Eric Adams defends pope after use of gay slur but catches flack for his remarks

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams defended the Pope following the pontiff’s use of a derogatory term for gay people, saying Wednesday that the leader of the Catholic Church, like him, is a target of the “word police.”

Adams' backing came after reports emerged that Pope Francis used an offensive Italian slang word in a closed door meeting last week with more than 200 other high-ranking church prelates. On Tuesday, the Vatican issued an apology.

Adams, who traveled to Rome earlier this month to meet with Pope Francis as part of a conference, took a more aggressive stance in defending the pope, criticizing those he’s come to view as nitpickers when it comes to language.

“The word police is out there all the time,” Adams said during an appearance Wednesday on 94.7’s “Jonesy in the Morning” show.

“When you do thousands of speeches and communications, you may say something that you want to say differently. But people should listen to the heart of people, and the work this pope has done is just really impactful across the entire globe.”

Adams on other occasions has blamed the “word police” for what he perceives as criticism. Over the past few months, he’s used the term to defend his handling of the city’s migrant crisis, Gov. Hochul saying Black kids in the Bronx don’t know what the word computer means, and his description of migrants as “excellent swimmers.”

When asked about the “excellent swimmers” remarks on the “Cats & Cosby” radio show two weeks ago, Adams said that there’s “a whole ‘I-hate-Eric’ section that sits up every day and say, ‘We’re the word police for Eric Adams.'”

“I don’t respond to that madness,” he said at the time.

After the Pope’s remarks became public, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni acknowledged the backlash to the cleric’s joking use of the slur.

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others,” Bruni said.

According to reports, Pope Francis used the term in response to a question about whether the Catholic Church should allow openly gay men to attend seminary. The pope answered no, saying the schools for training priests are full of “frociaggine,” several sources who were present for the meeting told Italian news outlets.

Adams’ defense of the pope sparked its own backlash — especially given the apology issued by the Vatican.

Allen Roskoff, a longtime LGBT activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, noted that the mayor has defended people “who use derogatory terms for the LGBT community,” a reference to several people Adams appointed to his administration.

Early in Adams’ tenure, LGBTQ lawmakers crticized the mayor’s decision to hire three men with histories of anti-gay views for high-profile jobs in his administration.

“It is wrong for him to accept that from anybody, whether it’s the pope or the person on a street corner,” Roskoff said. “Words hurt, and if he doesn’t know that, he has a problem.”