ALBANY, N.Y. (AP MODIFIED) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being criticized for using a racial slur for African Americans while discussing historical discrimination toward dark-skinned Italian immigrants.
Tuesday morning, in a radio interview on WAMC, the governor was speaking about Columbus Day and a recent Times article about how Italians overcame bigotry in the U.S.
That’s when he said “pardon my language,” and went on to use the racial slur for African Americans and then a derogatory slur once commonly lobbed against Italians.
Cuomo’s office initially declined to offer further comment. But around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, spokesman Richard Azzopardi explained the governor’s word choice by saying that the Democrat was using language that was printed in the New York Times. The article he was quoting was an opinion piece.
Some people were offended anyway.
Bertha Lewis, founder and president of the Black Institute, a public policy think tank, said Cuomo appears to think he has so much privilege he can say anything. She said there's no comparison between oppression against Italian immigrants and black people.
But New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he didn't take offense at Cuomo's comments. Heastie is the assembly's first African American leader.