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This is dirty politics, nearly as sleazy as it gets.
Days before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s primary race for re-election on Thursday, the New York State Democratic Committee has sent voters a campaign mailer falsely accusing his challenger, Cynthia Nixon, of being “silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.”
It says she supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. She does not. It accuses Ms. Nixon of opposing funding yeshivas, private religious schools attended by many of the city’s Orthodox Jews. She has never said that.
“With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance,” the mailer reads. “Re-Elect Governor Andrew Cuomo.”
This is the lowest form of politics, and the most dangerous, exploiting the festering wounds and fears along ethnic and religious lines.
“I didn’t know about the mailer,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday in Manhattan. “I haven’t seen the mailer.”
Sorry, Mr. Cuomo, but that strains credulity.
Mr. Cuomo dominates the state Democratic Party. It acts ethically or abominably at his direction, or at the very least, with his campaign’s blessing.
The committee no doubt sent this garbage in the cynical hope that it would prove effective with ultra-Orthodox Jews, who generally vote as a bloc, making them a sought-after constituency for New York politicians.
Geoff Berman, executive director of the state Democrats, said Saturday on Twitter that the mailer was “a mistake and is inappropriate and is not the tone the Democratic Party should set,” saying it wouldn’t happen again. Sunday, he went further, saying the party would “work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people.”
Even if that were possible so late in the campaign, it’s not enough.
Mr. Cuomo has an obligation to personally apologize and condemn these outrageous attacks. Voters deserve to hear Mr. Cuomo describe Ms. Nixon as a worthy opponent who abhors anti-Semitism. He should make sure that message gets to ultra-Orthodox voters ahead of Thursday’s elections. And he should fire the party official who came up with the idea for the flier.
While Mr. Cuomo is at it, he might also mention that Ms. Nixon attends a Manhattan synagogue. Saturday night, her rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, issued a joint statement with her wife, the teachers’ union leader Randi Weingarten, on Facebook, calling the charges in the mailer a “baseless lie.” Other Democrats have also condemned Mr. Cuomo and the Democratic Party for the flier.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat who hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the primary, said in a statement released by the Nixon campaign on Sunday: “I am doubly offended and aghast that my party organization would produce and mail such a false, damaging attack on Ms. Nixon and then watch the Governor and key staff act surprised they had done this. Shameful.”
Given all the ethical lapses in Mr. Cuomo’s administration, of which he has also pleaded ignorance, this smear is appalling. It is the kind of cynical behavior that detracts from Mr. Cuomo’s often-impressive ability to govern. If he is not careful, it could make voters feel they have no choice but to vote for someone else.