On Saturday, just before the start of of the Jewish High Holidays, some 7,000 New Yorkers received an official mailer from the State Democratic Party falsely implying that Cynthia Nixon is anti-Semitic, that she supports a boycott of Israel, and that she'd defund ultra-Orthodox schools. Democrats swiftly denounced the inaccurate smear, and the state party apologized, promising to fix the "mistake" by sending out a clarifying mailer before Thursday's primary.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the state party, has insisted that he has nothing to do with it—despite the fact that one of his top aides had shopped around a story about Nixon's Israeli settlement views just a day before the mailer went out. It is unusual that such a mailer would go out without approval from top officials within the campaign, according to several "high-level" political operatives who spoke with Politico.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, George Berman, appears to have reneged on his pledge to let the "Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people." According to Nixon's campaign manager, Rebecca Katz, "there's been no formal offer" made by the party, and no response to their request for a robocall denouncing the misleading claims made in the first flyer.
Worse, says Nixon, Cuomo has refused to personally apologize for the mailer, and to follow through on a host of recommendations made by the New York Times editorial board, which called the mailer "dirty politics, nearly as sleazy as it gets." Councilmembers Brad Lander and Mark Levine joined rabbis in City Hall Park this morning to denounce the mailer and to demand that the Times rescind its endorsement of Cuomo.
Other elected officials have also called for increased transparency, including state Senator Liz Krueger, who told us, "Speaking as a Democratic elected official and a voter, I believe we all deserve a clear explanation from the State Party and the Cuomo campaign of how this was approved and what is being changed to prevent it from happening in the future."
While Cuomo maintains that he, personally, had nothing to do with the flyer, his campaign said on Tuesday that the person responsible was "an individual helping the [Cuomo] campaign on constituency outreach." That admission came after the New York Post reported that one of Cuomo's top campaign aides had attempted to plant a story about Nixon's opposition to Israeli settlements.
So their defense is "Yes, I did the horrible thing, and, yes, I tried to hide that I did it, but it was wrong of the journalist to expose that I was manipulating Jewish fears of rising anti-semitism" https://t.co/Ni8ITpQtHS
— Lauren Hitt (@LaurenHitt) September 12, 2018
"Nixon has supported insidious BDS campaign, signing onto letter boycotting Israel," read an email sent to the tabloid on Friday. "Obviously something you guys have reported on a lot and right before the jewish high holidays! Can get you folks on the record slamming her as well."
Later that day, a top Cuomo campaign official sent a text to a Post reporter, "Hey I got something for you on nixon….I'm going to email to you. But not from me."
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo's campaign did not immediately respond to Gothamist's questions about who was behind the seemingly coordinated attack, and whether they'll face discipline. The State Democratic Party also would not comment on the issue.
The campaign told the Post that the correspondences "have nothing to do with the wrong and inappropriate mail piece that went out and shouldn’t have."
During an interview on Tuesday, Nixon told Gothamist, "What we've seen, both in the debate and with this recent mailer spreading lies and fear-mongering, is that neither the New York State Democratic Party nor Governor Cuomo...seem to have any compunction about lying. So that's one of the challenges as well: they will do or say anything to win in a way that I will not."