Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has spent weeks seemingly positioning himself for a 2020 White House bid, today refused to say that President Donald Trump‘s incendiary political campaign and presidential policies are responsible for the rash of bias crimes that broke out in the final months of last year.
The governor’s comments came less than a week after Mayor Bill de Blasio asserted the president and his followers are at fault for a rash of anti-Semitic incidents in New York and nationwide, and one day after the Jewish-led Anti-Defamation League received a bomb threat. The dud attempt at intimidation was just the latest in what Cuomo called “an explosion in the number of hate crimes” across the state in the weeks and months after the election—with November and December witnessing a stunning 106 percent increase in the number of bias incidents.
Despite this “parade of hateful acts” ensuing immediately upon Trump’s shock victory—acts that included the spray-painting of a swastika and the slogan “Make America White Again” on a baseball dugout in upstate Wellsville—Cuomo refused to lay responsibility for the violence and vandalism on the president’s inflammatory campaign, arguing instead the problem was radicalization on the left and right alike.
“I want to keep this out of politics to the most, to the greatest level that we can. I don’t think that is helpful. I think it’s undeniable but that the political tone from last year has created extreme views on, on both sides of the political spectrum. And I think that’s one of the factors,” Cuomo told reporters following a roundtable with faith leaders at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. “But whatever caused it, our focus is, is on ending it.”
When the Observer pressed him on whether there was truly no link between Trump’s triumph on a fiercely nationalistic platform and the subsequent “wave of hate crimes” the Democratic governor described, Cuomo maintained that the 2016 cycle had provoked and emboldened hardliners of all types.
“It’s undeniable but that the numbers increased, November, December, January. It’s undeniable but that there was an election that happened in November, right? Those are the facts, that are connected. I said I don’t think it’s helpful at this time to politicize the activity,” the governor reiterated. “But I don’t think there’s any question but that the political tone last year aggravated extremes on the political spectrum. I think that’s clear. But I think all people should now come together to find the solution: Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative.”
Trump lashed out last week at a religious Jewish reporter who asked him at a press conference about the barrage of bomb threats against Jewish institutions nationwide. The president called the journalist’s question “unfair” and ordering the observant young man to “sit down.”
But on Tuesday, the president called anti-Semitism “horrible” and “painful” and insisted the phenomenon “has to stop.” Critics bitterly asserted such remarks came too late.
Cuomo, however, refused to weigh in on whether Trump’s comments were soon or sufficient enough.
“I’m not here to judge anyone. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to stand up against hate, and to stand up for the principles of this country, and the principles of this state,” he said. “I think it’s everyone’s duty, everyone’s responsibility to fulfill the premise of ‘e pluribus unum’ and acceptance and love. But I’ll leave it to each individual to judge whether or not they’ve done enough.”
The Republican nominee won many of the conservative Jewish communities of Central and southern Brooklyn last November, despite losing his home state by a massive margin overall. But the NYPD reported in December that the city had seen a “huge spike” in bias attacks in the weeks after the election, the majority of them directed at Jewish targets.
The governor established a hate crime hotline to report racially and religiously motivated attacks in November, and today announced a new text message reporting system.