Assembs. Doug Smith, above, and Jodi Giglio were sponsoring a...

Assembs. Doug Smith, above, and Jodi Giglio were sponsoring a "Know your Rights about Mandatory Vaccinations" event that they decided to cancel. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

From viral to canceled

What happened when two Long Island State Assembly members announced they would sponsor an event Saturday on the most controversial topic around, featuring four controversial speakers?

First, it got lots of attention.

Then, it got canceled.

Assembs. Doug Smith and Jodi Giglio were sponsoring a "Know your Rights about Mandatory Vaccinations" event, in hopes of focusing on employment law and the constitutional rights involved in vaccine mandates, which both Smith and Giglio oppose. The two lawmakers both were vaccinated earlier this year — and both said they’ve worked to make the COVID-19 vaccine widely available to constituents.

Assemb. Jodi Giglio

Assemb. Jodi Giglio Credit: James Escher

But they may not have realized what they were getting themselves into when they selected a panel of well-known advocates and lawyers who’ve vocally opposed vaccination and vaccine mandates. One, attorney Mary Holland, is affiliated with Children’s Health Defense, an organization founded by well-known anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Another, advocate Rita Palma, runs an organization that teaches people how to write religious exemptions and was one of those protesting outside Northwell Health chief executive Michael Dowling’s house over the weekend. The other two participants were attorneys Jim Memigis, who has filed lawsuits against the mandates, and Kevin Barry, who previously told another forum with some of the same panelists that he could make a religious exemption to vaccination "as religious as possible."

A flyer advertising the event at a ballroom in Riverhead started circulating this week among those who oppose vaccines, but it quickly got picked up by others who are pro-vaccine who were concerned about the event.

"This is ridiculous," one public health and child advocate wrote on Twitter, sharing the flyer and tagging the two Assembly members. "Having a forum on vaccines yet not one qualified healthcare professional as a speaker? Thanks for prolonging the pandemic @jodigiglio @dougsmithny and making the lives of doctors and nurses harder."

"If you’re a constituent, please call & ask why they’re spreading misinformation," said another advocate on Twitter.

Perhaps in an indication of how quickly information spread among those opposed to vaccines or mandates: After Palma posted the flyer to her Facebook page, it was shared 80 times.

Giglio and Smith said in a joint statement Tuesday that they chose to cancel the event after its initial intention had been overtaken by the response.

"It appears that the event has gone viral, and the topic of government mandates has gotten lost, and it has inflamed passionate emotions on both sides," the statement said. "We do not want to sponsor or promote any event that cannot be held with civil discourse."

"This was intended to be an informative meeting about legal rights with a question and answer segment, not a debate causing further division during this difficult time," the statement continued.

Before deciding to cancel the event, both Smith and Giglio told The Point they encouraged others to get vaccinated, but did not approve of government mandates.

"The issue for me comes to personal rights and individual liberties," Smith said.

Giglio said she’s received thousands of emails from parents, health care professionals and others protesting the mandates.

"I’ve been vaccinated. I encourage everybody to get vaccinated, but I don’t think the government should be mandating vaccinations, especially with the many concerns that parents and health care workers who were our heroes have," Giglio said. "To deny those feelings by putting in a mandatory vaccination and forcing people who we depended on during the height of the pandemic is not fair. I am pro-vaccination but at the same time, I have compassion for the people who fear the vaccine."

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Who's in CD2?

Jackie Gordon’s 2020 congressional campaign email account reawakened in September with a pair of fundraising pleas — for other Democratic Party candidates.

"Last year, although we fell short of our congressional race, we built a movement of people fighting for leadership that would put Long Islanders first," said one email from Gordon, who lost to Andrew Garbarino in the race to succeed Pete King. "But friend, our fight is not over," the message continued, calling for donations to Florida Rep. Val Demings’ Senate bid.

The other email was a pitch for Cheri Beasley, a U.S. Senate candidate from North Carolina.

The Point wondered why Gordon, whose 2020 year-end filings show her campaign account with just over $17,000 cash on hand, was sending the emails, and if she might be looking to raise some buzz for herself.

"I’m excited to support two amazing Black women candidates running for office and am happy to use the platform I built as a Congressional candidate to help them out," texted Gordon, who is herself Black.

As for whether she’s considering another run for CD2, "I’m really just enjoying my life and family," she said. "Life is good."

It’s a little early for CD2 Democrats to be announcing since the district’s future boundaries are up in the air thanks to an elongated redistricting process, and the real possibility that state Democrats would mess with the contours to affect either Garbarino or the neighboring seat currently held by Rep. Lee Zeldin.

The Federal Election Commission’s website does already include filings from Democratic hopeful Muzibul Huq, whose website describes him as a physician and community organizer. And there are plenty of rumors about other potential challengers.

That includes former Islip Town supervisor and Suffolk OTB president Phil Nolan, who is currently consulting for OTB and tending to his business and familial interests.

"I’ve given it thought," Nolan told The Point Monday. No stranger to the hustings, Nolan noted that he had run for office in each of five decades. A 2022 run would make it six.

"I’m a junkie with this stuff," he said.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A loss of face

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Suffolk Dems hear a whole mess of messages

Tea-leaf reading was in plentiful supply Tuesday after Gov. Kathy Hochul campaigned at the Suffolk Democrats’ fall dinner and emphatically thanked county chairman Rich Schaffer for his endorsement at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook.

For starters, Attorney General Tish James had been invited but didn’t attend, although she’d been in Hauppauge earlier in the day on an official stop to tout prevention and treatment funds for local communities from the state’s big-money settlement with opioid manufacturers.

One veteran operative said it suggested James plans to run in a primary for governor next year rather than seek reelection to her current post. "If she’s running for AG, she shows up because they are all supporting her for reelection," the insider speculated.

But party sources said she’d been scheduled to move on from the Hauppauge event to continue touring the state on the settlement distribution. For his part, Schaffer had reportedly let James know in advance he’d be endorsing Hochul. But he said Tuesday he didn’t believe that caused James not to show. He added, "I’ve spoken to her about having her headline an event for us next spring."

Both he and state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs have been warning against the prospect of a "divisive" primary race that they argue could drain party resources and give the GOP a chance to win the governor’s mansion.

Beyond James’ potential candidacy, one Suffolk insider heard the bosses’ words as a warning to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Schaffer nemesis, and to Rep. Tom Suozzi, a longtime Nassau ally of Jacobs, saying: "I think Jay was sending a message to Suozzi and Richie was sending a message to Bellone."

Bellone reportedly did not show, but Suozzi attended and spoke after Hochul. Suozzi asked the crowd to give a hand for the current governor "making history" as the first woman in the office. Neither Bellone nor Suozzi have made their plans for next year’s election cycle clear.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat from Great Neck who has yet to declare for reelection, did not attend but Schaffer explained that he was holding a fundraising golf event of his own.

And so, hundreds of applauding guests launched dozens of guesses of how to interpret the pronouncements of the day.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

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