When controversy erupted over a mailer sent by the New York Democratic Party on the eve of Rosh Hashanah that misrepresented Cynthia Nixon’s views on Israel and accused her of ignoring anti-Semitism, Governor Andrew Cuomo denied knowing anything about the false attack on his primary opponent, calling it “inappropriate” and a “mistake.”
“I didn’t know about the mailer; I heard about the mailer, I haven’t seen the mailer,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Sunday.
On Tuesday the New York Post cast doubt on Cuomo’s claimed ignorance, revealing that one of his top campaign aides was shopping a story about Nixon’s Nixon’s alleged support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement just a day before the mailer went out to 7,000 households.
Now the New York Times reports that the flier was drafted and approved by two men with close ties to Cuomo. David Lobl, a former special assistant to Cuomo who is now a campaign volunteer, sent the language to two campaign aides, who created the mailer. The paper obtained an email from Lobl dated September 1 that had wording which appeared almost verbatim in the finished product. Per the Times:
“CN doesn’t want to fund yeshivas
CN is pro-BDS
CN has been silent on anti-Semetisim”
Mr. Lobl, who acted as a liaison to the Jewish community when he worked for Mr. Cuomo, declined to comment.
It is common for such liaisons to draft talking points and other material for campaigns. In the emails, Mr. Lobl went on to suggest that the flier include a photograph of the governor with President Reuven Rivlin of Israel, which appeared on the front side of the flier. The email also includes mentions of the governor’s accomplishments on Jewish causes, which were also detailed on the flier.
The flier was then approved by Larry Schwartz, another campaign volunteer who was formerly Cuomo’s top lieutenant.
Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith confirmed Lobl and Schwartz’s involvement in the creation of the mailer, but said Schwartz only noticed the remarks about Cuomo’s record on Jewish issues, not the false Nixon attacks on the other side.
“Larry Schwartz, who serves on our campaign in a volunteer capacity, was reviewing mail pieces in an ad hoc fashion, but he only saw the positive section of the mailer and never saw the negative section,” Smith said. “Had he seen it, it would have never gone out. We have said all along that the mailer was inappropriate and a mistake and have worked with the state party to change the approval process going forward to ensure this never happens again.”
Schwartz, who is Jewish, told the paper that he was very upset by the flier.
“I would have never approved that mailer to go out had I seen it in its totality,” he said. “It was totally inappropriate.”
While a state Democratic Party official said earlier in the week that it would let Nixon send out a mailer of her choosing to the same population, her campaign manager, Rebecca Katz, told Gothamist, “there’s been no formal offer,” and they received no response to their request for a robocall denouncing the flier’s incorrect claims.
On Wednesday, the eve of New York’s primary, Cuomo seemed to be avoiding the media, failing to alert the press to rallies in Westchester, the Bronx and Manhattan (they finally got a heads up about an evening rally in Brooklyn). Nixon mocked Cuomo’s attempt to maintain a low profile as she campaigned with progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“The fact that he seems to be in hiding the day before the election — yeah, I think he’s running scared,” Nixon said in the Bronx. “He’s made some really bad mistakes in the last few days.”