Governor Andrew Cuomo with former top aid Larry Schwartz in 2014 (Mike Groll/AP/Shutterstock)
The controversial mailer implying that Cynthia Nixon is anti-Semitic, and otherwise misrepresenting the candidate’s views on issues important to the Jewish community, was the work of at least two men with close ties to Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to multiple reports.
The NY Times reports that Larry Schwartz, the governor’s former top lieutenant who he later appointed to the MTA board, signed off on the scurrilous flier. The language was drafted by David Lobl, a former special assistant to the governor who acted as a liaison to the Jewish community, before joining the campaign as a volunteer.
Emails obtained by the Times show that on September 1st, Lobl suggested to two Cuomo campaign staffers that the mailer highlight that the governor’s Democratic primary challenger “doesn’t want to fund yeshivas…is pro-BDS…has been silent on anti-Semetisim.” None of those assertions are true, but all of them soon appeared on flyers that landed in 7,000 New York mailboxes on Saturday, just before the Jewish High Holidays.
The New York Post also spoke to sources familiar with Schwartz’s role in the smear, who described him as a “henchman” and “enforcer.” A different source told the tabloid, “We all know that Larry is the person closest to the governor and he doesn’t do anything without the Cuomo’s knowledge. It’s similar to a criminal cartel where they only communicate verbally to a handful of trusted people, of which Larry is one.”
In response to the revelations, Cuomo campaign spokesperson Lis Smith released a statement confirming that Schwartz had reviewed the mailer, but claimed that he only “saw the positive section of the mailer and never saw the negative section.”
“Had he seen it, it would have never gone out. We have said all along that the mailer was inappropriate and a mistake and have worked with the state party to change the approval process going forward to ensure this never happens again,” Smith continued.
But the state party, which promised to fix the “mistake” by sending out a clarifying mailer before Thursday’s primary, never made good on that offer, according to Nixon campaign manager Rebecca Katz. And Governor Cuomo—who has maintained that he was not personally involved in the scandal—has neither personally apologized, nor stated publicly that Nixon is not a proponent of anti-Semitism.
Instead, Cuomo appeared to spend most of the day before the primary avoiding the press, prompting a #WheresCuomo hashtag, even as an increasing number of people within his own party called on him to explicitly address the mailer.
A representative for the State Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Cuomo campaign did not respond to Gothamist’s request for comment.