A billionaire hedge-fund manager and top political donor for charter schools is under fire for racially charged comments that suggested a black senator who supports teachers unions was worse than the Ku Klux Klan.
Daniel Loeb said on Facebook than Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), who opposes a broad expansion of charter schools, has “done more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”
That triggered a forceful rebuke Friday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, “These comments were deeply hurtful and offensive and there is no place for this type of rhetoric in any discourse — political or otherwise.”
An aide to Stewart-Cousins, who is a Senate minority leader, called the remarks “disgusting” and said the “whole episode speaks volumes about the state of our politics right here in New York.”
Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), head of the Independent Democratic Conference and an ally Loeb praised in the same Facebook post, said the remarks “have to be repudiated.” Sen. George Latimer (D-Rye) called them “rude and racist.”
“One of the most absurd, racist things I’ve heard,” Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx) tweeted.
Loeb deleted the post after it was reported by The New York Times and issued a statement saying he regretted the remarks.
“I regret the language I used in expressing my passion for educational choice,” Loeb told The Times. “I apologize to Senator Stewart-Cousins and anyone I offended. I have taken down the post from Facebook.”
What apparently prompted Loeb’s original post were stories this week about tension in a meeting among Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and other Senate Democrats over efforts to unify the party in the Senate and win suburban seats.
Stewart-Cousins, according to a source, told the governor he didn’t view her as a suburban legislator, saying: “You see my black skin and a woman, but you don’t realize I am a suburban legislator.”
Both the senator and Cuomo’s office later released statements saying there was no racial tension in the discussion.
Loeb has been a major political donor, supporting Cuomo, Klein and congressional Republicans.
He has been the chairman of the Success Academy charter school network, another major player in state educational politics. In the 2016 election cycle, Loeb gave more than $1 million to a pro-charter school campaign committee that sought to influence state elections and progressives protested an East Hampton fundraiser he held for Cuomo.
Loeb posted his remarks the day the story about Democrats’ tensions appeared in the news media.
Loeb praised Klein for supporting charter schools and added: “Meanwhile hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in an email: “We have no connection with these comments whatsoever and in our opinion they are entirely inappropriate and have no place in the public discourse.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said they were “offensive and wrong on every level.”
“This is backward thinking which has no place in today’s world,” Heastie said on Twitter.