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Andrew Cuomo criticized for remarks about 'extreme' conservatives

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, in Albany, N.Y. (Jan. 8, 2014) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- New York's Republican leader Tuesday called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to apologize for saying there is "no place" for "extreme" conservatives in New York.

Speaking of the Republican Party in Washington and Albany, Cuomo said Friday: "Their problem is themselves. Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Because if that's who they are and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the State of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are."

With Cuomo up for re-election and supporters saying he may run for president in 2016, the remarks continue to draw national attention.

State GOP chairman Ed Cox demanded Tuesday that Cuomo, a Democrat, apologize. Cox accused Cuomo of "poisoning New York's politics with divisive rhetoric at a time when New York needs to be united to address its continuing economic problems."

State Conservative chairman Mike Long said he "would not accept an apology [from Cuomo] because what he said was very vindictive, very mean-spirited. To be governor of anything and talk like that is absolutely shameful."

Aides said after Cuomo's remarks on public radio's "The Capital Pressroom" that he was referring to extreme conservative politicians who he believes can't get elected statewide because they are out of step with New Yorkers.

"The governor was making the point that he makes often: New York is a politically moderate state and an extremist agenda is not politically viable statewide," said Cuomo's counsel, Mylan Denerstein. "New York has a long history of electing Democrats and Republicans statewide who are moderate rather than on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. That is an unarguable fact."

"The governor is a gun owner and a Catholic. His faith is very important to him and he respects the Second Amendment . . ." Denerstein said. "The governor's main principle for New York State is tolerance of different opinions, races, sexual orientation and religion."

Cuomo's comments have made the rounds of Fox News and talk radio nationwide.

"When liberals speak, their handlers keep their fingers crossed they won't tell the truth on how they really feel," said Sean Hannity of Fox News.

"I know the governor has tried to explain his remarks, but he hasn't succeeded," Cox said. "He just confused it more. . . . He needs to apologize for those outrageous remarks."

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