ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came under attack Wednesday from the head of the Catholic Diocese in Buffalo and from a Republican who is eyeing a possible run against him for his recent remarks about “extremist conservatives” having no place in New York.
While the Cuomo administration has sought to downplay the firestorm by saying the governor was talking about far-right political candidates and not right-of-center residents, there has been no softening of condemnation against Cuomo for the remarks he made last week on a public radio interview.
Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone on Wednesday called the comments by Cuomo “the best example of extremism I’ve heard for a long time.”
Rob Astorino, the Westchester county executive, said Wednesday that Cuomo’s remarks were “extremely disconcerting” and divisive in a state that should embrace all political philosophies.
The governor drew criticism nationwide from conservatives and Republicans for his remarks during a public radio interview last week about how he defined “extremist conservatives” as those who are against abortion rights, gun-control measures and gay marriage, and said people with such views have no place in New York.
His spokesman later said the governor was clearly talking about politicians, and his counsel then said the governor was making the point that New York is a politically moderate state and that extremist agendas are not “politically viable statewide.”
“That’s not what he said. … Come on. He’s a big boy. He’s the governor, and he said that, and he should own up to that, and he should apologize,” Astorino told reporters during a stop at the Capitol after a meeting with GOP county chairmen about his possible gubernatorial candidacy.
“It’s extremely disconcerting, and what he said – it’s obnoxious, and it is nothing that will help our state get to where our state needs to be,” Astorino added. He said the comments were “divisive, they were intolerant and just plain unacceptable.”
The Cuomo administration declined to comment on Wednesday’s criticisms.
In a video posted on YouTube to coincide with Wednesday’s anti-abortion march in Washington, Malone said Cuomo’s comments were a “rant against what he called extreme conservatives.” He said Cuomo defined such people as “those of us who are right to life, and the governor of New York State actually said there is no place for us if we are pro-life in the State of New York.
“Now he is speaking of an extremism, and I think that comment is the best example of extremism I’ve heard for a long time. At first it was so outrageous it made me laugh. Then it made me deeply concerned,” the bishop said.
In a clear reference to an abortion expansion measure Cuomo pushed last year that failed in the State Senate and the governor is again making a priority for this year, Malone said the governor “wants to make us the abortion capital of the country.”
“I don’t want that, you don’t want that, Pope Francis doesn’t want that, who recently said abortion is a symptom of a throw-away culture,” the bishop said.