After the New York State Democratic Party—which Gov. Andrew Cuomo controls—sparked a torrent of outrage by sending voters a campaign mailer smearing progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon as an anti-Semite just ahead of Thursday's gubernatorial primary, Nixon on Sunday denounced Cuomo for deploying "Trump-style divide and conquer tactics" to stoke fear among New York's Jewish community.
"I am incredibly angry and sad that Governor Cuomo and his official New York State Democratic Party would engage in the kind of Trump-style divide and conquer tactics at a time when we need to come together."
—Cynthia Nixon"This is an attack not only on my children and my character, but on all New Yorkers. It's sickening, at a time when anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other hate crimes are on the rise, to exploit people's real fears like this," Nixon said in a statement. "Our children's grandparents escaped the Holocaust but many of their family members did not. The accusation that my family promotes anti-Semitism is deeply, deeply offensive."
"I am incredibly angry and sad that Gov. Cuomo and his official New York State Democratic Party would engage in the kind of Trump-style divide and conquer tactics at a time when we need to come together," concluded Nixon, who is raising her two children in the Jewish faith.
The mailer—which was reportedly sent to around 7,000 households and cost the state party $11,000 to create and circulate—accused Nixon of being "silent on the rise of anti-Semitism" and proclaimed that the progressive education activist and actress "won't stand strong for our Jewish communities."
How dare you, @nydems?! Smearing @CynthiaNixon (whose kids are being raised Jewish, BTW) as soft on anti-Semitism & lying about her position on Israel in order to fearmonger and shill for votes is a shameful dead-end for our party. #BeyondThePale #Jews4Cynthia pic.twitter.com/3J5xHpLnbu
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) September 8, 2018
While it is well-known that Cuomo effectively directs the New York state Democratic Party, the governor insisted during a press conference on Sunday that he had no idea the mailer was being sent and said he hadn't even seen it.
"The shameful smear attacks on Cynthia Nixon and her family are beyond the pale—and the New York Times is complicit in those baseless attacks so long as it maintains its support for Gov. Cuomo's re-election effort."
—The Jewish Vote
Echoing the widespread condemnation of the mailer by progressives and New York state officials, Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger wrote on Twitter that she is "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."
New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also denounced the state Democratic Party's leadership for feigning ignorance of the mailer:
How did the NYS Democratic Party manage to spend $11k on a mailer, falsely accusing a Dem candidate of anti-Semitism, w/o party leadership knowing?
Why isn’t it issuing corrective action before Thursday’s primary?
& why is the party taking sides in a primary to begin with? https://t.co/pzc0y0k4VV
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) September 10, 2018
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Not even the New York Times editorial board—which endorsed Cuomo last week—bought the governor's assertion that he played no role in orchestrating the smear.
In an editorial published late Sunday, the Times called the state Democratic Party's flier "nearly as sleazy as it gets" and said Cuomo's claim that he was unaware of the attempt to smear Nixon as an anti-Semite "strains credulity."
"Mr. Cuomo dominates the state Democratic Party. It acts ethically or abominably at his direction, or at the very least, with his campaign’s blessing," the Times noted. "Given all the ethical lapses in Mr. Cuomo's administration, of which he has also pleaded ignorance, this smear is appalling."
And yet, shortly after denouncing his party's "dirty politics," the Times doubled down on its endorsement of Cuomo, vaguely citing the seven-year governor's "potential."
So funny: the NYT - which previously accused Andrew Cuomo of being "corruption-tainted" - now accuses him of "dirty politics, nearly as sleazy as it gets" & "the lowest form of politics, and the most dangerous" & notes "all the ethical lapses in Cuomo’s administration". Then: pic.twitter.com/66Eh15u8RP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 10, 2018
In an open letter on Sunday, The Jewish Vote—a New York-based sister organization of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice—called on the Times editorial board to "immediately withdraw and rescind their endorsement" of Cuomo.
"The shameful smear attacks on Cynthia Nixon and her family are beyond the pale—and the New York Times is complicit in those baseless attacks so long as it maintains its support for Gov. Cuomo's re-election effort," the group wrote. "If the New York Times maintains its endorsement, it will signal to Cuomo there's no serious price to be paid for engaging in this kind of hateful smear or trafficking in lies."
Attempting to clean up the mess made by his party's smear tactic ahead of Thursday's election, Geoff Berman—executive director of the New York state Democratic Party—wrote on Twitter that the mailer was "inappropriate" and promised to "work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people" who received the anti-Nixon flier.
It is unclear whether the Nixon campaign will be able to send out a counter-mailer before Thursday.
Brad Lander, a Democratic New York City council member, ripped Berman's attempt to backtrack as "classic dirty politics."
"Send a mailing you know is heinous and false at the last minute. Hope you don't get caught. If you do, promise 'it will not happen again' when it's too late to matter," Lander wrote. "This is indeed, 'not the tone the Democratic Party should set.' But you set it."