A Facebook posting from a prominent political donor has turned an under-the-radar controversy that started with Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Democrats into one that is now getting public reaction from around the New York political world. Zack Fink filed the following report.
In a Facebook post that was quickly taken down Thursday night after it appeared in the New York Times, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, a prominent donor in the charter school movement, wrote, "Thank God for Jeff Klein and those who stand for educational choice...meanwhile hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood."
Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the African-American leader of the state Senate Democrats. Jeff Klein leads the breakaway Independent Democrats, or IDC, which has a coalition with Republicans for control of the upper house.
Loeb's remarks drew swift condemnation.
"I am just appalled when I read it. I got calls before I even read it, and then reading it, it sent chills," said Hazel Dukes of the NAACP New York State Conference. "I find it offensive, and it's unacceptable."
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Loeb, quickly distanced himself from the remarks, saying they were deeply hurtful and offensive and they have no place in the public discourse.
Loeb was responding to an article in the New York Times this week about a meeting Cuomo had in his office last month with Senate Democrats.
At that meeting, sources say Cuomo told Senator Mike Gianaris of Queens that Jeff Klein understands the suburbs better than him.
Stewart-Cousins replied that the governor sees her as black and a woman but not as someone who actually represents the suburbs. Her district includes Westchester.
Loeb is also the chairman of the board of Success Academy Charter schools, which is sticking by him for now. Loeb has since apologized for his remarks.
But multiple politicians jumped into the controversy Friday, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent out more than one tweet Friday telling Loeb he needs to step down as chairman.
The Loeb controversy comes at an interesting time. On Monday, African-American leaders are expected to rally in Harlem to call on all Democrats in the state Senate to come together and unify. Stewart-Cousins was unavailable for comment Friday, but she is expected to be at the rally Monday.