Escalation: After Cuomo's 'No Place in New York' Remarks, His Counsel Reminds the New York Post of Their 'Responsibility'

January 22nd, 2014 8:54 AM

On Friday, as I noted on Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told public radio's Susan Arbetter that "extreme conservatives" – that is, people who are pro-life, understand the clear meaning of the Second Amendment, or wish to keep marriage as it has traditionally been defined – "have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are." Note well that Cuomo's remarks are still not news at the Associated Press's national site.

On Sunday, Cuomo's people sent and released an "open letter" containing a very inaccurate transcription of the original interview accusing the New York Post's Aaron Short of being "entirely reckless with facts and the truth" in his report ("Gov. Cuomo to conservatives: Leave NY!"). As I demonstrated on Monday, the only reasonable interpretation of what Cuomo said is that Republican Party members who hold any one of the three positions noted in the previous paragraph "have no place in the state of New York." In the past several days, the matter has escalated. The Post has continued to cover the story – that's what newspapers are supposed to do – while, in an extraordinary move, the Counsel to the Governor has entered the fray with what can only be interpreted as threatening language.

Monday morning, the Post's Fredric U. Dicker covered the reaction of some "leading Republicans" (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Gov. Cuomo is under attack from Donald Trump, Rob Astorino and other leading Republicans for his jaw-dropping claim that conservatives who oppose abortion and gay rights and favor traditional gun ownership “have no place in the state of New York."


Trump, who says he’ll decide about entering the governor’s race next month, called the comments “a terrible statement, an unfortunate statement.”

“It’s hard to believe that he really believes that," continued Trump, when reached for comment by The Post at his home in Palm Beach, Fla.

Westchester County Executive Astorino, who has also promised an announcement next month on whether he’ll run for governor, called Cuomo’s comments “just the kind of intolerance that is directly opposite to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached.”

“New York already leads the nation in chasing away its own citizens because of extraordinary high taxes, so does Cuomo really want to bully millions more away?" Astorino said.

“New York’s greatness comes from accepting people of differing points of view. What Andrew Cuomo has revealed by these statements is his true self, because we see just how angry and radical his views are."

... state GOP Chairman Ed Cox plans to publicly urge Cuomo to apologize for his comments.

“I will call on Gov. Cuomo to apologize to all New Yorkers for poisoning New York’s politics with divisive rhetoric at a time when New York needs to be united to address its continuing economic problems,’’ Cox said.

Cuomo made his breathtaking remarks during a radio interview Friday as he discussed the widening Republican rift between moderates, whose support he’s seeking in his re-election campaign, and conservatives, whom he characterized as anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and pro-traditional gun ownership.

Mylan Denerstein, the Governor's Counsel, took serious umbrage to Dicker's predominantly fact-based report, issuing an "Open Letter to the Editor of the New York Post in Response to Today's Column by Fred Dicker." Given Dicker's prominent position in Empire State media and the relatively cordial relationship he and the Governor once had, the tone of Denerstein's response is extremely (there's that word again) aggressive.

Here it is, in full (numbered tags are mine):

As we approach the political season we expect the campaign dialogue to become more heated on both sides. We understand the New York Post is an opinionated newspaper and that Fred Dicker is an extreme conservative. [1] However responsibility must not be forsaken. [2]

Dicker's story that the Governor said Conservatives have no place in New York is unfair, false [3] and the exact opposite of what his tenure as Attorney General and his state administration has been all about.

The Governor has never demonized the opposition to his gun law nor stance on protecting choice nor marriage equality. [4] The Governor is a gun owner and a Catholic. His faith is very important to him and he respects the Second Amendment. [5] I have been party to many of these discussions over the years and while opinions are firm, the entire discussion on these different views has been tempered and respectful. The Governor's main principle for New York State is tolerance of different opinions, races, sexual orientation, and religion.

Fred Dicker has angered many with what has been reported as "hateful" comments [6] but the Governor would be the first to defend Dicker's right to express his views and believes the diversity of opinion is one of New York State's greatest assets.

The Governor was making the point that he makes often: New York is a politically moderate state and an extremist agenda is not politically viable statewide. [7] New York has a long history of electing Democrats and Republicans statewide who are moderate rather than on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. That is an inarguable fact.

Let's discuss relevant issues rationally. [8] Or at least attempt to do so.


[1] — In an April 2011 profile at the New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters portrayed a man who is an Empire State institution, an equal opportunity critic, and someone who is "generally conservative and libertarian (links are in original):

... The era when one reporter could dominate the news has given way to a modern media culture saturated with blogging, posting on Twitter and stories with millisecond shelf lives. But New York can be more old-fashioned. And here Mr. Dicker’s radio show and weekly op-ed column in The Post remain a potent cocktail in state politics.

Walk through the marbled corridors of the State Capitol, and you will hear radios tuned to 1300 AM, where Mr. Dicker holds court every weekday morning. Aides are assigned to take notes and file reports to their bosses about what he said.

He pummels politicians with such bipartisan brutality that people seem unable to turn away. His take on three governors — Eliot Spitzer: “A consummate hypocrite.” David A. Paterson: “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” George E. Pataki: “A selfish cynic.”

So far he has been gentle with Governor Cuomo in columns that extol, not excoriate. He has compared the governor’s leadership style with Theodore Roosevelt’s, admired his “fierce work ethic” and even lent credence to wild speculation that Mr. Cuomo could replace Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as President Obama’s running mate.

Admiration tends to come before scorn. ...

Mr. Cuomo has made Mr. Dicker’s show his only regular media stop, appearing on it five times since being inaugurated in January — more than he has sat down for formal interviews with any other media outlet.

Mr. Dicker’s distinctive brand of journalism — old-school beat reporting, searing commentary and a sizable dose of showmanship — has helped him endure for more than three decades in Albany. He has managed to persevere even as the press corps around him has shrunk from budget cuts.

... Capitol events are often planned around the radio show, at times to accommodate Mr. Dicker and at times to avoid him.

... Mr. Dicker grew up in the Bronx, the son of a federal housing lawyer and a librarian’s assistant. Though his generally conservative and libertarian politics today might suggest otherwise, he harbored leftish sympathies as a young man.

Somewhere along the way, Team Cuomo decided that someone who a New York Times writer would only describe as "generally" conservative became "extreme." Perhaps this has occurred in the past several days.

But the attempt to demonize Dicker could be traced to December of 2012, when he described the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut as "convenient" for gun-grabbers. Dicker was inconveniently right from the left's perspecitve, because gun-grabber Cuomo capitalized on the tragedy to push his beloved "SAFE Act," described when it was passed as the "toughest gun control law in the nation."

It would appear, if Cuomo had his way, that Fredric Dicker would be among those who "have no place in New York."

[2] — Translation: "Fredric Dicker is being irresponsible. Fredric Dicker and the New York Post need to stop being irresponsible. Do I need to remind you that I'm the Governor's Counsel, with the full resources of the State of New York at my disposal?"

[3] — As I showed on Monday, the most generous interpretation of what Cuomo said is that he was "only" referring to "extremely conservative Republican Party members, "simply because the only way for someone to 'win' a contest between moderate Republicans and 'extreme Republicans' (for state legislative offices) is to have a vote of the Republican Party electorate, aka the primary elections on June 24."

[4] — Memo to Ms. Denerstein — Calling those who oppose same-sex marriage "anti-gay" demonizes them. Calling those who understand and defend the Second Amendment's clear meaning "pro-assault weapon" demonizes them. It's not arguable. Cuomo used both characterizations in his Friday radio interview.

[5] — Shortly after Sandy Hook, Cuomo said that gun "confiscation could be an option." Under the SAFE Act guns are being confiscated from law-abiding owners. Cuomo's supposed "respect" for the Second Amendment is a sham.

[6] — As noted earlier, this would appear to Dicker's post-Sandy Hook "convenient" assertion. There was no "hate" in that. It turns out to have been what is known as "an accurate observation."

[7] — This is a pathetic dodge by Denerstein, because that is NOT what the Governor said. Cuomo was assessing the electoral prospects of those who would be running for seats in the State Senate, not those running for "statewide" office. Senators represent districts, not the entire state. There are surely plenty of districts in New York where what Denerstein insists is an "extreme agenda" (i.e., supporting the right to life, the Second Amendment, and traditional marriage) has majority support.

[8] —Translation: "Fredric Dicker is being irrational. Fredric Dicker and the New York Post need to stop being irrational. Do I need to remind you again that I'm the Governor's Counsel, with the full resources of the State of New York at my disposal?"

It would appear that Team Cuomo is now trying to intimidate its way out of the nasty situation the Governor created for himself.

In a Tuesday editorial, the Post indicated that it's not going to let that happen:

Gov. Cuomo’s thin skin

Is it just us, or is Andrew Cuomo being awfully touchy?

On Monday, the governor’s counsel denounced The Post’s Fredric U. Dicker as an “extreme conservative” in an open letter. This follows an open letter from the Gov. Cuomo’s office on the same subject — remarks by the governor he complains have been taken out of context.

These remarks came from his radio interview Friday. On air, the governor called some Republican conservatives “extremists” who “have no place in the state of ­New York.”

In a free society, the way to resolve polarizing issues is by debating them openly and trying to persuade your fellow citizens you are right. It’s not to suggest people keep their views to themselves. American history, moreover, is replete with causes — civil rights, for one — that initially were unpopular but ended up prevailing.

The governor takes offense because he says his views have been mischaracterized. We wonder how those on the receiving end feel about his characterizations.

Is it fair, for example, to label those who have doubts about gun control as “pro-assault-weapon”? Does favoring traditional marriage mean you are “anti-gay”? And are pro-lifers trying to impose a “religious belief,” or might their position reflect their conclusion about when human life begins?

If these conservatives find Gov. Cuomo’s language about having no place in New York politics troubling, maybe it’s because it comes at a time when other Americans likewise tagged as “extremists” for their politics found themselves singled out for special treatment by the IRS.

... (the Governor) indulged in cheap caricatures meant to advance a truly self-serving and noxious argument: that anyone who disagrees with Andrew Cuomo on these issues must be an extremist.

On Monday, Michael Gerson at the Washington Post identified what's going on:

Andrew Cuomo silences the opposition

... Cuomo does not deign to argue with New Yorkers who oppose abortion, support a maximalist interpretation of the Second Amendment or defend the position on gay marriage held by Barack Obama when he was first elected president. These extreme views, according to Cuomo, are fundamentally illiberal and foreign to the values of his state. Such positions are not to be engaged with and refuted; they are to be marginalized.

We are accustomed to this approach within the gates of certain colleges and universities that have vague, open-ended speech codes intended to stigmatize certain viewpoints. This is often taken by ideologues as implicit permission to shout down differing opinions. The power to define the boundaries of acceptable discourse is the power to intimidate.

Academic liberals tend to regard universities as “our place,” in which others may stay as long as they behave. Now Cuomo has applied this attitude to the whole of the Empire State. From a provost, this is a violation of academic freedom. From a government official, it is an attack on genuine pluralism.

Make no mistake: Mylan Denerstein is also telling the rest of the establishment press to stay away from reporting Cuomo's remarks or, if they feel they must cover them, to frame them to the Cuomo adminstration's satisfaction.

The New York Times's "coverage" of the story thus far is limited to one sentence in the "Coming Up Today" portion of yesterday's "New York Today" section: "Republicans in Queens protest Governor Cuomo’s recent radio remarks that “extreme conservative” opponents of abortion rights, gun control and gay marriage “have no place” in the state. Queens Borough Hall, 11:30 a.m." Well, at least the squib isn't in line with Denerstein's false characterizations.

Will the rest of the press sit by meekly while the Governor of one of the nation's largest states ratchets up the intimidation? I sure hope not, but I'm not counting on it. I'm afraid that many journalists would rather see freedom of expression shrink than be seen as sympathizing with a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication.

If Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Lone Star State Governor Rick Perry said anything about people who disagree with them not being welcome in Texas, it would be the subject of non-stop saturation establishment press coverage for weeks.

Cross-posted at