The Cuomo campaign is backpedaling from a mailer sent to voters by the Democratic Party state committee that sought to link gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon to anti-Semitism.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Geoff Berman, executive director of the Democratic committee, called the mailer a “mistake” and “inappropriate.”
Some Democrats called it “shameful” and “classic dirty politics,” casting doubt on the “mistake” explanation. Nixon called it an “out and out lie” and “deeply offensive.”
Critics noted the literature was sent to voters just days before the Nixon-Cuomo primary with little or no time to correct it.
The mailer cited Nixon as being “silent on anti-Semitism,” opposing funding for Yeshivas and supporting the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israel.
“With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance with inexperienced Cynthia Nixon,” it reads.
The mailer triggered a strong backlash — even from fellow Democrats.
“As an elected Democrat in NYS and as a Jew, I am doubly offended and aghast that my party organization would produce and mail such a false, damaging attack on Ms. Nixon and then watch the governor and key staff act surprised they had done this. Shameful,” Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) wrote on Twitter.
“I think we need explanations,” Nixon, who is raising her children Jewish and who attends a synagogue, told reporters Sunday. “I demand to know exactly where this came from. Who is responsible … We have to tell the truth, which is that this is a bald, out-and-out lie.”
Nixon noted that Cuomo is the de facto head of the state Democratic Party and said the notion that he had “no idea this was happening is patently absurd.”
At a separate news conference Sunday, Cuomo said: “I don’t know about the mailer. I haven’t seen the mailer,” according to news reports.
On Twitter, a campaign spokeswoman said the governor had no “knowledge of the mailer in question” and “disagrees with the language.”
“Pretty convenient for the governor to use the NYS Democratic Party to do the dirty work of his dog-whistle attack politics and then ‘condemn’ it,” Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, a Nixon supporter, countered on Twitter Saturday night. “Classic dirty politics.”
The mailer also featured a photo of Cuomo standing with a group of Jewish leaders and saying he is “standing up” for the community. Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), one of the officials in the photo, said Sunday he was “not consulted in any way” about the mailer.
“Certainly, I was shocked to see this,” Kaminsky, who supports Cuomo in the race, said. “The [Democratic] committee has apologized — which was the right thing to do.”
Berman, the party’s executive director, also went on Twitter Saturday to write: “Let me be very clear: This mailer was a mistake and is inappropriate and is not the tone the Democratic Party should set — it will not happen again.”
He didn’t offer further explanation of who approved the flyer. On Sunday he sent a statement that the party would “work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people.”
It’s unclear how that would happen before Thursday’s vote.