The Post's headline read: “Who didn't want him dead?”
The story reported that “Although many neighbors described him as well-liked and charitable, Stark left behind a trail of angry tenants from more than a dozen residential properties, mostly in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, along with an untold number of unpaid contractors and angry business associates, investigators said.” It quoted a tenant who said "I've had many conversations with him, and of course in many of those conversations, I wanted to kill him."
Many readers sensed anti-Semitism behind the headline, which appeared almost to justify the murder and make light of it. The Post went on to report, in a later article, that a partner of the slain businessman is now fearing for his life and has hired bodyguards.
About 200 people gathered at Brooklyn's Borough Hall on Sunday, as Jewish leaders and Brooklyn elected officials called on The Post to apologize.
“Whatever the facts turn out to be and whatever the full story as established by the police, young children have lost their father and a wife is now a widow,” Rabbi Moishe Indig, a leader of the Aroynem Satmar stream, said in a statement. “To have a front-page story declaring ‘Who didn’t want this man dead?’ is an affront to all New Yorkers.”
Post's cover story
"It really hurts that such a heinous crime, instead of being condemned, is glorified," said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.
Niederman told CNN he does not know anything about Stark owing money or having legal problems. The Post is giving people a "license to kill," he added.
Abraham Buxbaum, Stark's brother-in-law, wrote in an Arutz Sheva op-ed that the Post's "sick, despicable and untrue story" was "character assassination, providing justification for the murder of Menachem. Terrible untruths against a man no longer able to defend himself, against a family who doesn’t deal with the outside world. Indeed, we cannot even bear to repeat the words of their headline. We miss him and love him and our hearts ache."
New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who issued a statement on Sunday condemning the Post's reporting, said he was in "absolute shock" when he first read the article. It "almost justifies his murder," added Hikind. "I think what everyone wants is a simple apology," said Hikind.
Gathering at Borough Hall Eli Wohl
"The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die, but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime," said a Post spokeswoman in a statement.
According to Yeshiva World News, one of the authors of the story on Stark, Hella Winston, received two awards for her excellence in Jewish journalism, “based on two anti-Hasidic stories she wrote for The Jewish Week” on haredi child abuse and against the Borough Park Shomrim. YWN calls the story “a hit piece.”
The New York Times reported on the controversy surrounding the Post headline. While it also printed some of the negative allegations against Stark, it additionally quoted friends of the slain man and community leaders who said that Stark had “spread his good fortune to his neighbors with an openhandedness that set him apart.”
He and his wife were known for hosting parties to raise money for charities, neighbors said. Recently, he had helped gather donations for an organization that provided financial support to couples with infertility problems who could not afford treatments.
Though the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population of south Williamsburg is divided between two Satmar sub-sects, the Aroynem and Zaloynim, Stark gave generously to both groups, a Satmar hassid named Gary Schlesinger told the Times.
A petition against the New York Post's coverage of the murder had gathered 5,000 signatures by early Monday morning.
In addition, photographer Eli Wohl wrote on his Facebook page that he took the photo used by the Post in its cover story, and that he is “exploring” his legal options following the way the newspaper made use of it.