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The humor in an attempt at a bilingual joke appears to have gotten lost in translation at a recent Hispanic Heritage Month event at Huntington Town Hall.
Democratic town board member Mark Cuthbertson, addressing the crowd in Spanish, said he wanted to have some fun at the expense of Republican town board colleagues Mark Mayoka and Gene Cook, who were in the audience.
Noting that neither Republican spoke Spanish, Cuthbertson asked the crowd to “boo” when he said “Mayoka” or “Cook” and applaud when Democratic town Supervisor Frank Petrone’s name was mentioned. The audience played along, but the joke has fallen flat with some.
“I was appalled by his disrespect to the Hispanic Heritage program,” Mayoka, who is running for re-election, said. “He was belittling the Hispanic community by turning it into a comical, political event when it’s a serious program. They were honoring youth.”
Cook, who is challenging Petrone for the supervisor’s seat, said Cuthbertson was “pandering” to the audience and showed bad manners.
“It was rude to the people who were being honored, it was rude to do that at a celebration and I found it horrendous, and certainly uncalled for,” said Cook, acknowledging that he didn’t know what Cuthbertson was saying at the time.
Cuthbertson said he prefaced his comments with the fact that it was a joke and meant no disrespect.
“At the end of the program, a prominent Hispanic leader praised my remarks and asked everyone to give me a rousing applause for relating to the community by speaking in Spanish,” he said. “If anyone at all was offended I certainly apologize.”
The video can be seen on the Town of Huntington website, http://huntingtonny.granicus.com