ROTTERDAM – Conservative and Republican candidate for Town Board Joe Mastroianni is receiving backlash from the Conservative Party chairman and former Schenectady County sheriff for Facebook posts he made peddling false information about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mastroianni said his posts last year were meant to spark debate among people and the Conservative Party is attacking him because he won the primary against the party’s endorsed candidate.
Mastroianni beat Jesse McGuire 185-149in the primary for the Conservative line in Rotterdam.
Around Sept. 11, 2020, Mastroianni posted several memes about the 2001 attack. Those posts stated the attack was an inside job. Then on Sept. 12 he posted a photo of a firefighter who had worked at ground zero and thanked him for his service.
Mastroianni’s page also includes posts related to COVID and the 2020 election. He said he’s made controversial posts for years.
“I’ve always been someone who questions authority, reality, official narratives,” he said Tuesday.
His 9/11 posts, he said, correlate with the narrative around COVID.
“I saw the COVID narrative unfolding, the trillions of dollars that the government was trying to spend and the counterproductive measures that were being put in place,” he said.
Mastroianni was 19 when 9/11 happened.
“It was the most traumatic and disturbing event, only the initial lockdown of COVID could rival that,” he said. “It was a hard thing to wrap my head around. It was a traumatic thing for us to endure and the fact that so many stories about that official narrative persist to this day I felt that it was something that could get people to think about the oncoming COVID narrative that exists.”
Mastroianni said he is against masks and would not say whether he is vaccinated.
Conservative Party Chairman James Barrett circulated an email statement Monday about the posts, calling them “abhorrent” and “disgusting.”
“I spent time working at ground zero and in the recovery efforts at the Fresh Kills landfill,” he said. “The horrors of those days will stay with me forever.”
Anyone who holds the same views as Mastroianni isn’t fit to serve in office, Barrett said.
He also called Rotterdam Republican Party Chairman John Mertz’s support of Mastroianni “incomprehensible.”
Mertz chalked the situation up to the “silly season,” the weeks before the election when candidates or campaigns attack each other to sway voters.
“Do we review every one of Joe’s provocative postings that were intended to create intellectual debate on Facebook?” Mertz said. “No, because Facebook isn’t indicative of what everyone believes. Facebook is merely a community place where people just throw out ideas to spark conversation, it doesn’t mean it’s your position.”
Mertz said the Republican candidates that were endorsed didn’t seek cross-party endorsement.
“All of our candidates didn’t ask for their endorsement because the Schenectady County Conservative Party, unlike anywhere in the state of New York, is aligned with the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party and that should be indicative of kind of what’s going on,” he said.
Because Mastroianni won the primary the Conservative Party is trying to attack him and make him lose votes, Mertz said.
Former Sheriff Harry Buffardi, a Democratic Rotterdam resident who had previously been endorsed by the Conservative Party, released a statement on Sunday criticizing Mastroianni’s posts, which Buffardi said offended him. He said his criticism is not politically motivated.
“This is not about partisan politics: It is beyond the pale of human decency that a major party’s candidate for public office would hold such anti-American views,” he said in the statement.
Buffardi said Tuesday he doesn’t believe Mastroianni’s reasoning behind the posts, “which had nothing to do with COVID because it happened 20 years ago.”
“I think when you become a public figure and run for public office you have to be more thoughtful in your presentation of events going on in the world,” he said Tuesday.
Buffardi spent several weeks at ground zero and directed cadaver dog units at the site.
He, like Barrett, said Mastroianni isn’t fit for office.
“If Joe Mastroianni is showing this type of judgment now, what will happen if he’s given responsibility over our town?” he said in his statement.
Mastroianni said he understands if his posts offended Buffardi.
“It was an offensive day,” he said, noting it’s been a raw topic since the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
He said he’d like to talk to Buffardi about his perspective.
Mastroianni said he doesn’t believe his social media posts will affect his campaign.