By Joe Kuhn
State Attorney General Letitia James has taken issue with a video posted by the Rockland County Republican Party. The video, which was shared on the party’s Facebook page, features ”deeply disturbing” and “anti-Semitic” content according to James, who called for the clip to be taken down in an official statement released by her office.
“To clearly state that members of the Jewish community are a threat to families and our safety and that they must be stopped is despicable and completely unacceptable. Attacking those who are different than we are only breeds hate and makes us weaker,” warned the Attorney General.
While the party has since removed the video, Republican officials remain adamant that James’ remarks are a mischaracterization. In his own statement, Chairman Lawrence Garvey said,“the purpose of the video was to point out the critical situation that is ahead in the upcoming election and the critical impact that redistricting will have on our county.”
“This is not, nor has it ever been a religious issue” said Garvey.
The video was posted hours before County Executive Ed Day was scheduled to hold a press conference calling for state intervention to enforce housing codes in Ramapo. The conference was canceled in the wake of the controversy.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, a Rockland-based advocacy group, has also condemned the video. “Criticism of municipal policy is not inherently bigoted even when it involves an ethnic group” they said in official statement. “But in some corners of Rockland County, especially on Facebook groups and among the political class in the Town of Clarkstown, the narrative for years has been that virtually every wrong in Rockland County involves Hasidim, and everything involving Hasidim anywhere in the world is wrong.”
The video, which warned that “a storm is coming,” endorsed Day and urged citizens to vote against the “Ramapo voting block,” supposedly organized by county legislator Aaron Wieder.
“Regardless of your thoughts of the video, there are facts that cannot be ignored,” said Garvey in response to the clip’s vocal critics.
“For those not living in Rockland, it is harder to see a real and unique problem that exists here. The people of Rockland have become desperate for attention to the problems facing our communities and many live every day with the threat of losing their homes and neighborhoods”
Day said he agreed the video had an inappropriate tone and called on it to be removed. He also noted that he remains strongly opposed to potential changes to the town zoning code and “overdevelopment” in general.
“While the content of the video is factual, the tone and undercurrent is unacceptable,” Day said.
The controversy over the video follows on the heels of an uproar over Legislator Wieder treatment of community activist Michael Hull at a recent press conference. As caught on video by Rockland Report, Wieder gets in the face of Hull and declares that he is an “anti-Semite” repeatedly.
Many found Wieder’s outburst to be inappropriate and borderline-abusive, including Legislator Laurie Santulli (R) who asked that Wieder be officially admonished by the entire Legislature.