- The Magazine
A longtime LGBTQ activist and president of a prominent gay Democratic organization says that recent mailers seeking to link gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon to anti-Semitism are the political successor to anti-gay attacks that were launched against former New York Mayor Ed Koch in the 1977 mayoral race.
The common link? Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran his father Mario’s campaign in 1977, and is currently being challenged by Nixon as he seeks a third term.
New York veteran political operative Allen Roskoff told the New York Post that the mailers against Nixon are yet another example of Cuomo’s willingness to traffic in smear campaigns. He believes Cuomo, during his stint as campaign manager, was behind signs that appeared in conservative-leaning Queens neighborhoods urging people to “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo,” a dig at Koch, who was rumored to be a closeted gay man.
Throughout his political career, Cuomo has continued to deny he was behind the anti-gay signs.
“For decades, Andrew Cuomo has denied knowing anything about the disgusting ‘Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo’ posters that surfaced in Queens during the campaign he managed against Ed Koch,” said Roskoff, who headed Lesbians and Gays for Mario Cuomo during the 1977 campaign. “All these years later, something similar is happening again in another race led by Andrew Cuomo — this time it’s the smearing of Cynthia Nixon, who is raising her children Jewish.
“Andrew Cuomo needs to come clean — and also, play clean,” Roskoff said. “And he owes the people of New York an apology for such a cynical, deplorable attempt to divide us.”
Roskoff currently heads the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, one of two prominent LGBTQ Democratic political organizations in the city. The club endorsed Nixon earlier this year.
The mailers, sent out to 7,000 households by the state Democratic Party, seek to link Nixon to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that criticizes Israel for its treatment of Palestinian citizens, its military presence in some of the occupied territories, and its support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The mailer accuses Nixon of supporting the BDS movement, something for which she has never expressed support.
“With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance with inexperienced Cynthia Nixon, who won’t stand strong for our Jewish communities,” the mailer reads, charging that Nixon supports BDS, opposes taxpayer funding for yeshivas, or Orthodox Jewish religious schools, and has remained “silent” when it comes to speaking out against anti-Semitic attacks. The mailers appear to be aimed at Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, a potentially influential voting bloc.
Another veteran Democratic operative told the Post that it was an unnecessary move by Cuomo, who effectively heads and is the chief funder of the state party. The operative said it makes Cuomo look “horrible” and predicted it would create a backlash against the governor and his supporters.
Nixon responded via Twitter, writing: “The mailers that Governor Cuomo and the NY State Democratic Party have sent out are not only an attack on my family, but on all New Yorkers. At a time when anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other hate crimes are on the rise, it’s sickening to exploit people’s real fears like this.”
The mailers that Governor Cuomo and the NY State Democratic Party have sent out are not only an attack on my family, but on all New Yorkers.
At a time when anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other hate crimes are on the rise, it’s sickening to exploit people’s real fears like this.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) September 9, 2018
Geoff Berman, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party — who was appointed by Cuomo — took to Twitter amid the backlash, writing: “The state Party sent out a wrong and inappropriate mailer — we will work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choice.”
The state Party sent out a wrong and inappropriate mailer — we will work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people.
— Geoff Berman (@geoffberman) September 9, 2018
Other Democratic party officials have also denounced the mailers, with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer calling for Berman’s resignation.
Last thought before sundown: Berman must resign.
— Scott Stringer (@scottmstringer) September 9, 2018
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is friendly with Nixon and has a long, rocky relationship with Cuomo, called for the party to compensate Nixon’s campaign, while casting doubt on the sincerity of Berman’s apology.
The mailer sent by the NY Democratic Party in the 11th hour falsely attacking Cynthia Nixon is beyond unacceptable — it’s downright Trumpian. A tweeted “apology” calling it a “mistake” is laughable. The state party must compensate the Nixon campaign immediately.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) September 9, 2018
Cuomo has denied any knowledge of the mailer, calling it a “mistake” and “inappropriate.”
“I didn’t know about the mailer. I heard about the mailer. I haven’t seen the mailer,” Cuomo said during a news conference on Sunday.
“The way I’ve ran this campaign, it’s been on the issues, it’s been positive,” he said, adding that state party officials “better figure out how this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“I don’t deploy those negative tactics, and I don’t want the Democratic Party of the state doing it,” Cuomo said.
But the Post has previously pointed out that the bulk of the state Democratic Party’s money came from an infusion of cash from Cuomo’s campaign. At the same time, the party was paying the political consulting firm Mission Control more than $136,000 in recent weeks to produce mailers. The company’s founder, Ed Peavy, previously handled Cuomo’s political mail during his two previous runs for governor.
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