ALBANY — Under attack from Republicans for saying he’ll only donate a portion of the campaign contributions he received from former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Gov. Cuomo Thursday afternoon decided to shed all of the tainted funds.
The decision came just hours after he defended his original decision to donate the $ 50,000 he received from Weinstein the past year, but not the more than $ 61,000 given during his previous campaigns for governor and attorney general dating back to 2006.
In a statement Thursday afternoon announcing the sudden about-face, state Democratic party Executive Director Basil Smikle called it “shameful that some have sought to use this matter to score political points, but the real issues are far too serious to allow any distraction to overtake them.”
“For that reason, the extraordinary step will be taken of giving all contributions from prior campaigns whose committees have been closed for years so that we can dispense with the Republican ploys and focus on the real issues,” Smikle said.
Smikle then asked: “Will the Republicans accept the support of a President who himself disrespected, demeaned, and harassed women?”
“Will they support pay equity?” Smikle questioned. “Where do they stand on Betsy Doves rolling back Title IX protection for sexual assault on college campuses? Do they support Roe v. Wade? These are the answers that the people of this country deserve.”
Cuomo’s campaign last week announced the governor would return $ 50,000 he received from Harvey Weinstein, but not the more than $ 61,000 given during his previous campaigns for governor and attorney general dating to 2006.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
State GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud called the attack from Smikle an attempt to distract from Cuomo’s own situation.
“It took shaming him for him to do what was so obviously blatant to every other elected official in the country days ago,” Proud said.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, and Corey Booker of New Jersey, are among those who promised to donate Weinstein donations they have received to women’s causes.
The loss of the Weinstein money will hardly be noticed as as Cuomo‘s campaign in July reported having nearly $ 26 million on hand.
Smikle in his statement said that “the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are disturbing, horrid and the debate should be on how to best root out this reprehensible behavior and protect women from harassment and abuse.”
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault
Cuomo made a similar case in defending his decision to only donate the Weinstein money given for the upcoming 2018 campaign.
He said returning Weinstein’s donations is the “right symbol,” but that politicians would be better to support pro-women legislation like strengthening abortion laws, addressing sexual harassment and moving to stop campus sexual assault.
“Getting into a tiff about Harvey Weinstein’s money sort of misses the point,” he told reporters on Long Island.
“I think we also have to keep focus on the issue as opposed to the symbol,” he said. “The issue is the protection of women and the respect for women and taking action to stop discrimination and assault. That’s what this is really about. It’s bigger than Harvey Weinstein.”
He added that “we returned the money Harvey donated to my (2018) gubernatorial campaign,” he said. “Obviously money he donated to past campaigns has been spent and has been gone.”
Asked generally about Weinstein donations, frequent Cuomo foe and fellow Democrat Mayor de Blasio said Thursday, “Give that money back. Give it to charity. Get the hell away from it. No one in their right mind should be keeping it.”
With Jillian Jorgensen