Anti-Semitic flyer dogs Cuomo, even after big victory

The mailer once again stirred up questions Wednesday about who among the governor’s inner circle had known of it
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference Sept. 14
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference Sept. 14

Categories: News

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo might have assumed that his big win in last week’s Democratic primary would end talk about the last-minute piece of campaign mail that falsely accused his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, of being anti-Semitic.

If he had, he would have been mistaken.

Nearly a week after Cuomo’s impressive victory, the mailer was once again stirring up questions Wednesday about who among the governor’s inner circle had known of it, as well as providing a renewed talking point for Marcus Molinaro, the Republican candidate for governor.

Paid for by the state Democratic Party, which is effectively controlled by Cuomo, the flyer was sent to about 7,000 households in largely Jewish neighborhoods just before Rosh Hashana and the primary. It included several false claims, including an insinuation that Nixon had been “silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.”

Two days before the primary, the Cuomo campaign had said only that the mailer was the result of “an individual helping the campaign on constituency outreach.” The following day, however, the campaign provided more information, offering that individual’s name, David Lobl, and saying that Lawrence Schwartz, formerly the governor’s top lieutenant, had inadvertently approved the mailer while serving as a campaign volunteer.

The campaign said that Schwartz had only seen one side of the flyer and did not see the inflammatory language on the reverse side.

“I would have never approved that mailer to go out had I seen it in its totality,” he told The New York Times last week. “It was totally inappropriate.”

But the New York Post reported that two other officials with close ties to Cuomo — Maggie Moran, his campaign manager during the primary, and Jill DesRosiers, his executive deputy secretary — had been included on an email chain in late August that mentioned the idea of sending a mailer to several state Assembly districts with high numbers of Jewish residents, although not its exact content. Moran did not respond to the email, and neither she nor DesRosiers commented on the proposal to send a mailer.

The language that was used in the actual mailer was suggested several days later by Lobl, a campaign volunteer who had previously worked as a liaison between the Cuomo administration and the Jewish community. It was then approved by Schwartz.

Cuomo, a Democrat seeking a third term in November, has denied knowing anything about the flyer, which he called a “mistake” and “inappropriate.”

The Cuomo campaign Wednesday dismissed The Post’s article as a rehash, and Lobl did not respond to requests for comment. But the ongoing questions about who knew what, and when, continued to dog the Cuomo campaign.

Molinaro, who is trailing in public polls with less than seven weeks till Election Day, seemed intent on keeping the pressure on, traveling to Albany on Tuesday to criticize “the ugliest nature of this governor and quite frankly the ugliest nature of politics,” as exemplified by the flyer.

“It was despicable and ugly tactics, and quite frankly continues a long history that this governor has engaged in and allowed those closely associated with him to engage in,” Molinaro said, adding that he expected “to see similar tactics leveraged against us.” He called on Schwartz, who serves on the board for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to resign, calling him an “anti-Semitic mailer henchman.”

Schwartz directed questions to the Cuomo campaign, which said that Schwartz was “a professional and a part-time volunteer” and added that the state party had adopted “new approval processes” to ensure such a flyer “doesn’t happen again.”

As for Molinaro, whom the Cuomo campaign calls a “Trump mini-me,” a campaign spokeswoman, Abbey Collins, redirected the debate to another topic. “Instead of cheap shots, Molinaro should stop hiding and release his taxes,” Collins said.

In her concession speech last week, Nixon, who is not Jewish but is raising two Jewish children, made reference to the flyer, saying “my family was slandered.” And on Wednesday, Rebecca Katz, a senior adviser to Nixon’s campaign, said that the lack of a complete accounting was hurting not only Cuomo’s reputation but also the Democratic Party.

“Before the Democrats can be fully united, I think the governor needs to take responsibility for this mailer,” Katz said. “And apologize to Cynthia and her family.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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