What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo left radio listeners stunned after he said the n-word during an on-air conversation
- During his Tuesday appearance on public radio WAMC, Cuomo moved away from a question about the state’s delayed Medicaid payments
- He subsequently cited the New York Times editorial use of the derogatory term – steering the conversation toward anti-Italian sentiments
Gov. Andrew Cuomo left radio listeners stunned after he said the n-word during an on-air conversation that started with Medicaid and shifted to discrimination against Italian-Americans.
During his Tuesday appearance on public radio station WAMC in Albany, Cuomo, a Democrat, moved away from a question about the state’s delayed Medicaid payments asked by host Alan Chartock and subsequently cited the New York Times' editorial use of the derogatory term – steering the conversation toward anti-Italian sentiments.
The governor, noting he was referencing a New York Times editorial about the racist language used to describe Italian immigrants in the past, said his ancestors were often referred to as “n----r w--s.”
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"Pardon my language, but I'm just quoting the Times, n----r w--s, n-word w--s," the governor said.
On Saturday, the NY Times published the op-ed "How Italians Became White" in which the derogatory slur is found. The op-ed analyzed the discrimination faced by Italians in the United States in the past.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the governor was using language that was printed in the Times, and prefaced his remark by saying he was quoting the newspaper.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he didn't take offense at Cuomo's comments. Heastie, the first African-American speaker, said Cuomo was quoting a New York Times editorial about racist language once used to describe Italian immigrants.
But 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.
In response to the governor's comments, the national director of the Working Families Party demanded an apology from Cuomo.
"That word is a stain on this country's soul," said Maurice Mitchell. "No white person should use it in any context, for any reason — least of all as an example of how he thinks HE has been unfairly treated. Governor Cuomo needs to apologize right now."
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also called out the governor, saying in a tweet "This headline brought to you by the 1940s and empowered white priviledge."
The comment came a day after Cuomo celebrated Columbus Day and pledged his full support for a memorial for Mother Cabrini – an Italian-American nun -- in New York City.
It is not the first time the governor has used charged language in public. In March, when he visited a predominantly black church on Palm Sunday, he shocked people when he suggested that Jews could not dance.
"I'm a Catholic," Cuomo told parishioners at Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church, the NY Post reported at the time. "Catholics basically believe the same thing as Baptists believe. We just do it without the rhythm. But we try. We try. We are not as without rhythm as our Jewish brothers and sisters."