Irish tenor Ronan Tynan is belting out red-faced apologies today for alleged anti-Semitic remarks he made to a Jewish doctor looking at an apartment in his East Side building -- comments, he said, that were merely a joke.
Famous for singing "God Bless America" at Yankee stadium, "Ave Maria" at the funeral of Ronald Reagan and songs for Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Tynan is now striking a chord of penitence and reconciliation.
"It was stupid of me to be so callous, and I would never want to hurt anybody's feelings," Tynan told NBC New York.
But the damage may already be done as the Yankees have silenced the tenor -- canceling his scheduled Friday night appearance during the 7th-inning stretch of Game 1 of the League Championship Series, according to a team spokesman.
The trouble began on Thursday when the 49-year-old Tynan bumped into a Halstead Property real estate agent showing an apartment on his floor to a potential buyer, a pediatrician from NYU Medical Center.
The real estate agent said to the tenor, famous for his association with Yankees, “Don’t worry they are not Red Sox fans,” according to the apartment-hunter, Dr. Gabrielle Gold-von Simson.
To which Tynan replied, "I don’t care about that, as long as they are not Jewish," Gabrielle Gold-von Simson told NBC New York.
“Why is that?” asked a flabbergasted Gold-von Simson of the singer.
And Tynan responded that Jewish ladies had been looking at the apartment before and they were "scary," according to Gold-von Simson.
The singer now claims he was joking, but the good doctor didn't see it that way.
"I didn't know him at all so how could I take it as a joke," said Gold-von Simson.
Tynan for his part said it was just a “big misunderstanding.”
“I’m not anti-Semitic and I have never been in my life,” Tynan told NBC New York. “There are three members of my band that are Jewish. And I love them like brothers. I call them my brothers from another mother.”
The real estate broker Richard Rosenthal did not want to comment for this article, but Halstead Properties issued a statement about the incident.
“We are shocked that this happened to our agent and their customer, "said Robyn Kammerer, Halstead’s vice president of communications. "It was truly an appalling statement and it saddens us that this type of behavior still occurs in today’s society.”
Tynan admitted to making the comment but said it was all in jest, Howard Rubenstein, the Yankees publicist told NBC New York.
The Yankees reached out to Tynan and Gold-von Simson to confirm the story and canceled Tynan’s appearance at Friday’s night league championship opener.
Tynan then called Gold-von Simson immediately to apologize and has agreed to make a donation to the NYU pediatric center where she works, Rubenstein said.
"A lot of my friends are Jewish," said Tynan. "It's something misfortunate, I was too stupid with my mouth."
Gold-von Simson said she accepted the Irishman's mea culpa.
"Absolutely," she said. "It was a sincere apology."
The incident appears to be an ugly stain on life celebrated as an inspiration. His legs were amputated in his twenties due to a childhood disability but he went on to become a medical doctor, international recording star and motivational speaker, according to his website.
Tynan rose to great fame in New York after 9/11 performing at many benefits and memorials for fallen members of the NYPD and FDNY. His performance at the Yankee games in those dark months cemented his legend.
He sang also at the wedding of friend former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his third wife Judith Nathan, and at the 80th birthday party of former President George H.W. Bush.