Cuomo Urged To Apologize For Intolerant Words

01.22.14 | Bob Price

The Republican county executive considering a run for governor said Wednesday that incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo should apologize for comments he made about "extreme conservatives."

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who said he'll decide in February whether to challenge Cuomo, called the governor's radio comments on Friday "unacceptable," "divisive" and "intolerant."

"He's a big boy. He's the governor. He said that, and he should own up to it and he should apologize," Astorino said. "It's extremely disconcerting what he said. It's obnoxious and it is nothing that will help our state get where it needs to be."

In discussing the Republican Party and its candidates, Cuomo said it was divided between moderates and "extreme conservatives" he described as pro-assault weapons, against abortion and anti-gay and who "have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are."

In a subsequent letter to the New York Post, Cuomo's counsel, Mylan Denerstein, wrote that the governor believes in diversity of opinion and was making the point that New York is a politically moderate state where "an extremist agenda is not politically viable statewide."

"The governor has never demonized the opposition to his gun law nor stance on protecting choice nor marriage equality," she wrote. "The governor is a gun owner and a Catholic. His faith is very important to him and he respects the Second Amendment."

On public radio's "Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter," Cuomo was asked about his raising money from traditional Republican campaign donors and whether he was moving away from traditional Democratic values. He said he didn't think he was less of a Democrat, but that there was a schism in the Republican Party. He cited New York's gun restrictions enacted a year ago as an illustration.

"The SAFE Act, the Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act. It was voted for by moderate Republicans that run the Senate. Their problem is not me and the Democrats. Their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are?

"Because if that's who they are and they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in New York. That's not who New Yorkers are. If they're moderate Republicans, like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate, moderate Republicans have a place in this state. George Pataki was the governor of this state as a moderate Republican. But not what you're hearing from them on the far right. "

Cuomo spokesmen declined to comment Wednesday on Astorino's request for an apology.

Astorino, who has been meeting with Republican officials around the state, said he raised $6 million in easily winning November re-election in heavily Democratic Westchester County and wouldn't need $33 million like Cuomo has in his campaign fund to challenge him. "We've discussed it internally and it's a reachable goal," he said.