Fernando Cabrera Draws Fire for Ties to Hate Group

Councilman Fernando Cabrera. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Councilman Fernando Cabrera. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

A Bronx councilman and senate contender has a controversial Family secret.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera, a pastor and socially conservative Democrat, recently appeared on the radio show of the Family Research Council, a right-leaning organization that was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law center four years ago. Mr. Cabrera also participated in a 2012 FRC event that included Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, leading a top rival to slam him for being out of touch with the heavily Democratic Bronx.

“This just affirms what we’ve known all along—that Fernando Cabrera never really left the Republican Party, and is totally out of step with the values of true Democrats,” Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for State Senator Gustavo Rivera, told the Observer. “From rallying against marriage equality to opposing a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, Mr. Cabrera’s entire record shows he simply does not have the progressive credentials to represent our neighborhoods in Albany.”

Mr. Cabrera is challenging Mr. Rivera for his west Bronx seat. Elected in 2009, Mr. Cabrera is a former Republican who is one of the more conservative members of the overwhelmingly liberal City Council.

Though his not known for making incendiary remarks, Mr. Cabrera is tied to a group that is: the FRC was classified a hate group due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, including a call for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned. The FRC joined groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam when it was slapped with the designation by the influential civil rights organization.

The law center points to Peter Sprigg, the FLC’s senior fellow for policy studies, as a prime offender. Mr. Sprigg has claimed that gay men are more likely to engage in child sexual abuse and that allowing openly gay people in the military would “increase the already serious problem of homosexual assault in the military.”

Mr. Cabrera, who did not return requests for comment, appeared on an FLC radio show in April where he discussed the city’s ban on church services in public schools.

“We’re the only large city in America that has such a crazy policy where the rest of the nation is just looking at New York City with total shock,” Mr. Cabrera said. “It goes against human rights, it goes against freedom of speech and religious freedom.”

Mr. Cabera’s bid against Mr. Rivera, sources say, is tied to state political dynamics. After Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of a breakaway faction of Democrats that governs the senate with the Republican Party, received a Senate Democrat-backed challenge from ex-Councilman Oliver Koppell, Mr. Klein asked Mr. Cabrera to run against Mr. Rivera, a chief critic of the senate’s power-sharing agreement, sources say.

In a May interview with the Observer, Mr. Cabrera did not rule out caucusing with the Independent Democratic Conference.

“I am going to work with those who are going to enable me to bring the power to my district … That’s what matters to the people in my district,” he said. “Whatever pans out I will follow that light.”