An Italian American political group, ticked off at Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino for comparing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a “mafia boss,” wants him to apologize to all Italians as well as the governor himself.
The New York State Italian America PAC, which Huntingtown Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, a Democrat, serves as honorary chairman, sent a letter to fellow Italian-American Astorino this week expressing outrage that the Westchester county executive would “perpetuate the stereotype of Italian-Americans as Mafia.”
Astorino was responding to Cuomo’s first public comments to a New York Times story detailing how people within his office, including former Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Regina Calcaterra, intervened whenever the Moreland Commission—made up of prosecutors across the state, including Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice—began looking into groups politically linked to the governor.
Cuomo denied any interference, using a statement—released the same day the governor responded to the story—from one of the commissioners in defense of the administration to bolster his point.
Astorino took issue with Cuomo’s rationale. “To suggest that he was suggesting to the commission members where they should go with an investigation is like a mafia boss coming forward and saying that he wants to make a suggestion, an offer you can’t refuse,” Astorino said. “That clearly is intimidation and that’s what he and his staff did.”
The “Godfather” reference was too much, apparently.
“Your characterization is an affront to all of us who have fought long and hard to combat the harm stereotyping causes to persons of all ethnic groups and who have tried to highlight the accomplishments of Italian Americans in our society,” NYS Italian America PAC wrote in its letter, dated July 29. “Your comment is offensive not just to Italian-Americans, but to all those who believe the hallmark of a good public servant is the capacity to bring persons of diverse backgrounds together and not resort to such hurtful name-calling.”
The group, in a blistery tone, wrote that Astorino’s comment has them questioning the county executive’s ability to maintain the moral high ground.
“Your flippant use of such a derogatory reference calls into question whether you have the necessary character, temperament and integrity to hold the office you seek,” the group wrote.
“NYS IAM PAC is requesting that you, County Executive Astorino, issue a public apology to all people of Italian heritage, as well as to Governor Cuomo for your insensitive and offensive reference.”
When asked for a response, the Astorino campaign did not apologize.
“He was reciting a line from ‘The Godfather,’ one of the most quoted movies on the planet,” an Astorino spokeswoman said in a statement. “Governor Cuomo is at the center of the worst corruption scandal in New York’s history—let’s have a little perspective please.”
Astorino, who has so far been unable to chip away at Cuomo’s double-digit lead in the polls, has seized on the Times report, painting the governor as a corrupt hypocrite who failed in his campaign promise to clean up Albany.
Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger Zephyr Teachout and her running mate, Timothy Wu, have also aggressively attacked Cuomo. On Wednesday, the pair accused the governor of possibly breaking four state laws.