A local state lawmaker likened Gov. Andrew Cuomo to one-time German autocrat Adolf Hitler Tuesday morning, leaving his Republican peers scrambling to distance themselves from him.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, who represents Cambridge and White Creek, said Cuomo’s use of the message of necessity to ram through the NY Safe Act earlier this month was a move reserved for “dictators.”
“Hitler would be proud, Mussolini would be proud of what we did here. Moscow would be proud,” he said. “How does Putin act over in Russia? Same thing; dictate to the Legislature what to do and they rubber-stamp it.”
The press conference was intended by members of the Assembly and state Senate Republicans, including Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, and Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, to announce the NYS Government Transparency Act. That act would bar the Legislature from convening at night and require a two-thirds majority in both houses to approve a governor’s message of necessity, instead of a simple majority.
But McLaughlin’s comments likening Cuomo to the 20th century’s most notorious mass murderer, which he reiterated when pressed by the media, stole attention from Republican attempts to reign in what they see as Cuomo’s lack of transparency.
“Steve’s statements were obviously unfortunate and inappropriate,” Stec said. “The governor doesn’t deserve that.”
Jordan, the Assembly minority’s second-ranking member and co-sponsor of the Transparency Act, said the gaffe could threaten the bill’s survival, which was already in question in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.
“It’s really taken away from the issue,” Jordan said of his backbencher’s statements. “I’m sure Steve would love to take that back, but sometimes things happen.”
Pro-gun groups and the political right have been making reference to Hitler’s Nazi Party ever since Cuomo first suggested he would push for stricter gun laws.
Michael Wyland, spokesman for Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver, blasted McLaughlin.
“That comparison is highly offensive and beneath a member of the state Legislature,” Wyland wrote in an emailed statement. “It is completely inappropriate and doesn’t belong in our public discourse.”
McLaughlin released a video statement on Youtube.com later Tuesday where he said he was “very, very sorry” for his statements, adding they were said “in the heat of the moment.”
Local Republican lawmakers tried to regain the message Tuesday afternoon, noting that both Washington County and Warren County boards of supervisors are considering proclamations opposing Cuomo’s use of the message of necessity.
“What is there to oppose?” Stec said. “I don’t see this as a partisan issue.”
Democrats dominate the Assembly floor and tend to dictate what reaches it for a vote.
No Assembly Democrats have signed on to the Transparency Act, Wyland said.
“The constitution allows for messages of necessity and the Legislature and governor agree to them as appropriate,” Wyland said.
Cuomo’s office did not respond to requests for comment on McLaughlin’s statements.
There are rumbles of a potential Democrat sponsor in the Senate, where the bill is now carried by Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Jordan said.
Ball, like McLaughlin, has been one of the harshest critics of the NY Safe Act since its passage.
“Good ideas shouldn’t be about who’s carrying them,” Jordan said. “We’ll see.”