A white woman who wrongly accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone and tackled him at a New York City hotel appeared to back off her apology in a TV interview that aired Monday, suggesting that maybe he did try to steal it after all. Meanwhile, the teen's parents are calling for a boycott over the hotel's handling of the false phone theft accusation.
“So, maybe it wasn’t him but at the same time how is it so that as soon as I get asked to leave the premises after I had accused this person of stealing my phone, how is that all of a sudden they just miraculously have my phone at the back?” 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto said in the interview on “CBS This Morning."
The interview was conducted Thursday, hours before Ponsetto was arrested in Ventura County, California, over the Dec. 26 confrontation with 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. Ponsetto was charged Saturday in New York with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault, according to city police. Meanwhile, the teen's lawyer and family want hate crime charges brought against Ponsetto.
Security video released by the police shows Ponsetto frantically grabbing at Harrold as he tries to get away from her through the front door of Manhattan's Arlo Hotel. The teen's father, jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, has said that Ponsetto’s phone had actually been left in an Uber and was returned by the driver.
In the first part of the CBS interview, broadcast Friday, Ponsetto told host Gayle King, “I don’t feel that that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me.”
She was frequently combative in the clips that aired Monday, interrupting King and her own attorney, Sharen H. Ghatan.
Ponsetto said she was “sorry from the bottom of my heart” but added, "He’s 14? That’s what they’re claiming? Yeah, I’m 22, I’ve lived probably just the same amount of life, like honestly. I’m just as a kid at heart as he is.”
When King asked her to go over the events at the hotel, Ponsetto said, “You already asked me that at the beginning of the interview. I’m not going over it again. I would like to have a real interview with real questions and real heart and real sincere apologies. Let 2021 be the moment of healing, seriously.”
Ponsetto's arrest followed more than a week of media coverage of the hotel lobby encounter and demands by the teen’s family and activists that she face criminal charges over what was seen as an instance of racial profiling.
In the CBS interview, Ponsetto denied profiling the teenager and said her heritage is partly Puerto Rican. When King asked her if she believed a person of color could not be racist, she said, “Exactly.”
During a press conference held on Monday, Harrold Jr.'s family and attorney called for the public to boycott hotels by the company that owns Arlo Hotel in Soho, saying they have taken no responsibility or condemned what took place.
“Arlo, that’s a no go.” “No more Arlo,” said attorney Ben Crump.
Harrold Jr.'s mother, Kat Rodriguez, went on to say that the horrible incident changed her son.
"I can't hug my son from the back without him cringing. He actually asked me not to affectionately touch his back or shoulders for a while. He doesn't want to visit hotels," she said, adding: "He asked us why. He started therapy. This has absolutely traumatized him."
In a statement provided to News 4 New York, Arlo Hotels said: "We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel. In investigating the incident further, we’ve learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman’s conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence; still, more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute."
The statement goes on to say: "No Arlo guest – or any person – should be subject to this kind of behavior. We want to apologize to Mr. Harrold and his son for this inexcusable experience, and have reached out to them directly to express our sincere regret and to offer help in dealing with this traumatic event. We are committed to making sure this never happens again at any of our hotels."