Astorino: Cuomo backer should apologize for Nazi comments

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino on March 6, GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino on March 6, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

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ALBANY -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on the issue of tolerance Tuesday and called on Home Depot founder Ken Langone, a key backer of the governor, to apologize for comments he made comparing progressives to Nazis.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, in addressing an evangelical group in Albany, said Cuomo, a Democrat, was "intolerant" of people who disagree with him -- unlike his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

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Astorino also said Cuomo should distance himself from comments Langone made to Politico.com. In an article about wealthy donors fighting populist movements published Tuesday, Langone compared populists' tactics to Hitler's.

"I hope it's not working," Politico quoted Langone as saying about populist political appeals from the left or right. "Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don't survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy."

Astorino said he disagreed with Langone and added: "Ken should issue an apology. There's no room for those kind of comments. There isn't. And that's what I'm getting at . . . You've got to stop the shouting and screaming and labeling. All this 'extremist' comments when someone disagrees with you is gone way too far."

Astorino said Cuomo should "repudiate" Langone's comments. Langone has been a major force in Republicans for Cuomo, a political action committee backing the governor.

Earlier, in his speech to New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical group, and the Family Research Foundation, Astorino blasted Cuomo for calling some on the political right "extremists."

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"You know, under Mario Cuomo, you were allowed to disagree," Astorino said. "But not this governor."

In his address, Astorino also told the group the political left wants to take away their religious freedoms. He later cited "Obamacare," the federal health care act, as taking away religious freedoms. He also criticized Cuomo for proposing to strengthen abortion rights.

There was no immediate comment from the Cuomo administration or the state Democratic Party. Cuomo officials noted that state Assemb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke), an Astorino backer, in 2013 likened the governor to Hitler for forcing through legislation. McLaughlin apologized.

The Westchester County Democratic Committee, which has been acting as a Cuomo surrogate to respond to Astorino, didn't address the Langone or Astorino comments. Instead, it criticized the Republican for appearing at the evangelical conference which, the Democrats said, hosted a clergyman who used Hitler references while denigrating same-sex marriage.

 

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