The Republican county executive considering a run for governor added his voice Wednesday to the chorus urging incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo to 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.”
Cuomo said the GOP was divided between moderates and “extreme conservatives” he described as pro-assault weapons, against Roe v. Wade and anti-immorality who “have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
The comments were denounced by state Republican party Chairman Edward Cox and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), and conservative radio show host Sean Hannity threatened to leave New York in protest.
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.”
In an interview, Cuomo was asked about his raising money from traditional Republican campaign donors and whether he was moving away from Democratic values. He said he didn’t think he was less of a Democrat, but that there was a schism in the Republican Party.
“The SAFE (gun control) 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? … 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. “