Congressional hopeful Domenic Recchia Jr. accused Congressman Michael Grimm at a Democratic club meeting earlier this month of not hiring people of color — a claim Mr. Grimm shot down in a blistering rebuke.
The Observer obtained audio of Mr. Recchia, a Democrat and former Brooklyn councilman, addressing the Muslim Democratic Club of New York in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. In the recording, Mr. Recchia can be heard promising to hire an Arab-American staffer, and claiming Mr. Grimm, a Republican, has no non-white people on his staff.
“My staff’s going to be made up of what the whole district’s made up of,” Mr. Recchia said, alluding to the diversity of Mr. Grimm’s Staten Island- and southern Brooklyn-spanning turf. “Michael Grimm does not have one minority on his staff, okay, okay. That’s going to change. Because what better way to reach out and work with the community when you have someone you can relate to. Like you said, someone that will pick up the phone, and even if she doesn’t answer, or he doesn’t answer, you know where that person lives.”
Club president Linda Sarsour, whose voice can also be heard on the clip, confirmed to the Observer that a remark like the one above was made at the club.
Mr. Grimm was swift to deny Mr. Recchia’s claim, noting that he has two Hispanic employees on his Staten Island staff–including special assistant Marc Alvarez, with whom he frequently appears in public–as well as a representative in his Brooklyn office of Hispanic and Caribbean heritage.
“It is nothing short of disgraceful that Domenic Recchia would choose to not only inject racial division into this campaign, but to bald-face lie about Congressman Grimm’s hard-working staff,” said spokesman Nick Iacono. “For Mr. Recchia’s information, one-third of Rep. Grimm’s district staff is made up of minority members of our community, so we call on him to immediately apologize for his shameful, ignorant remarks and his despicable attempt to mislead the people of this district with lies and racial animosity. This is exactly the type of toxic rhetoric that is degrading our political process, and the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve better.”
Mr. Recchia’s camp declined to comment.
This is not the first time the contest between Mr. Grimm and Mr. Recchia, both white men, has taken on racial overtones. In July, Bill D’Ambrosio, the first vice chair of the Staten Island Republican Party, sent an e-mail to supporters claiming Mr. Recchia was counting on “Brooklyn housing project votes” to win the district and claimed the Democrat would work with Mayor Bill de Blasio to build low-income housing in Staten Island.
In response, Kings County Democratic Party chairman Frank Seddio and his Richmond County counterpart John Gulino released a joint statement accusing Mr. D’Ambrosio of “outrageous bigotry.”