During a press conference held this afternoon by Brooklyn Republican Senate candidate David Storobin, a tiff broke out between a Storobin supporter and a supporter of his Democratic opponent, Lew Fidler – which ended in the Storobin supporter denouncing the Fidler supporter as a “homosexual.”
Several minutes into the press conference, held in front of the Brighton Beach Jewish Center, Storobin was blasting Fidler for his connections to the “corrupt” Brooklyn Democratic Party. A Fidler supporter in attendance named Benjamin Shaeffer interjected.
“I’m a Democrat,” Shaeffer said. “Are you calling me corrupt?
“Hey,” responded Storobin supporter Gregory Waxman, who was one of only a couple supporters present at the sparsely attended press event. “You’re a homosexual. Ok?”
Shaeffer angrily demanded an apology – which Waxman finally did after about five requests.
Storobin tried to continue after the disruption, but during the lengthy speech, Shaeffer persisted in throwing question after question at the Republican candidate, dragging the event for some 30 minutes.
At one point, Waxman, who was standing next to me, suggested in a whisper to Shaeffer that physical violence would ensue if he didn’t quit interrogating Storobin.
During the speech, Storobin made essentially the same points as an opposition research memo his campaign sent me in early February laying out future attacks against Fidler. He denounced the Democrat for everything from Fidler’s claim that Storobin had ties to Nazi groups, to his outside job at LawCash, to a New York Post articles stating that Fidler parks his car illegally at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
In a Q & A afterwards, I asked Storobin about the “homosexual” comment by his supporter. At this point, strangely, Shaeffer began sprinting towards the podium to say that he had accepted Waxman’s apology. But Schaeffer was restrained by a couple of people in attendance – and Storobin answered the question.
“It was a ridiculous comment. It should not have been made,” Storobin said. “From what I understand, they’ve apologized…He’s not working for my campaign.”
Waxman’s name does not appear on Storobin’s campaign payroll records.
Afterwards, Waxman, a Russian immigrant, told me that he knew Storobin because both attend services at the Brighton Beach Jewish Center.
Not long after the press conference, Storobin’s campaign put out a statement about the heckling and the “homosexual” comment.
“Today, for the second time in a row, the Fidler campaign sent a heckler to disrupt my one of my campaign events that was called for the specific purpose of addressing issues in the campaign with members of the press. This is old-school, dirty Brooklyn Democrat machine-style politics, and it should be denounced and immediately discontinued by my opponent’s campaign.
“Today’s press event got particularly out of hand when a volunteer made inappropriate and offensive comments to the Fidler campaign heckler. I condemned those inappropriate remarks immediately and the volunteer apologized.
“In the future, I hope that Mr. Fidler’s campaign will refrain from sending associates to disrupt press events that are meant to educate the public about important issues in the campaign. Stop with the dirty politics.”
Schaeffer told me he’s not actually working for or coordinating with Fidler’s campaign.
Instead, Schaeffer said that he received a campaign mailer attacking Fidler yesterday and was upset – so he called the Brooklyn Democratic Party to see what he could do. He says he was told about the event today.
The “homosexual” comment by a Storobin supporter comes in the context of weeks of fighting between the campaigns over controversial writings by the Republican candidate on a site called Global Politician, which were then linked to by white supremacy groups.
In addition, early in the campaign, I reported on a tweet by a Storobin supporter – whose Twitter account is now being used by Storobin’s campaign – that appeared to call President Barack Obama a Muslim.
Here’s a statement from Fidler’s campaign manager, Kalman Yeger:
“For 14 straight days, Mr. Storobin has done nothing other than talk about a perceived insult he created in only his own head. This is now his second press conference where he has erratically engaged in nothing other than false and malicious attacks on Lew Fidler’s words and record. While Lew Fidler continues to campaign on issues important to the people of Brooklyn, Mr. Storobin does nothing more than lie, attack and lie some more. It’s a bit sickening at this point, but what else can we expect from someone who has no record, no accomplishments, and is trying to buy a Senate seat as the shill of his Albany Republican pals.”
UPDATE X2: Here’s the transcript of Storobin’s speech, which has links to the referenced articles.
“But there is another truth that must be known as a result of this sad episode. Another fundamental truth has risen out of this desperate and pathetic display of politics at its worst. And we are here today to acknowledge that truth.
“Mr. Fidler was right about only one thing. Character does matter in this race… but it is not my character that is at issue in this election; it is Mr. Fidler’s record of highly questionable, unethical behavior as a career politician, a City Councilman and a power broker whose the product of the corrupt Brooklyn Democrat political machine.
“Today, we are here to say that character does count. And that Mr. Fidler’s character renders him unfit to serve in the State Senate.
“This is not a statement I make lightly. I realize the the implications of what I’m saying.
“But this issue, the character issue, has become the central issue in this campaign.
“And now that we know the kind of person Lew Fidler is — the kind of person who would say or do anything to get elected… the kind of person who would sell out a member of his own faith, his own community, just so he can rise another rung on his career political ladder… Now that we know the kind of person Lew Fidler is, we have an obligation to examine Mr. Fidler’s record and determine whether he merits our vote for state senate, and the answer is NO.
“Let’s look at Mr. Fidler’s character record.
“First, I have always believed that you can judge a lot about a person by the company he keeps.
“What kind of company does Mr. Fidler keep?
“This is a man who is the product of, the creation of a corrupt Democrat political machine that has ruled Brooklyn for three generations.
“Mr. Fidler is the hand-picked candidate of political boss Vito Lopez. He is the heir — the direct descendant of “Big Tony” Genovese, Stan Fink, and Boss Esposito.
“His political buddies even held a political rally for him on the floor of the New York State Assembly, which good government groups called an outrage. But this sort of political cronyism is nothing new to Lew Fidler.
“His entire professional life, Mr. Fidler has been suckling at the bosom of the Brooklyn political machine, and now it’s his turn to run for state senate.
“Mr. Fidler is a man who has given money and taken money from the now disgraced Carl Kruger — the man who pled guilty to corruption and is the reason we have this special election.
“Mr. Fidler even arranged patronage jobs for his political cronies at City Hall including a man who was disbarred by the New York Bar Association but was put in charge of legislative work.
“You may think that all this questionable ethical behavior sounds normal and that there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. But that is exactly the point. Mr. Fidler comes from a culture that not only says political cronyism is okay, he embraces it and he’s proud of it.
“Voters, beware: if you vote for Lew Fidler, all you’ll get is another career politician, and more of the same corrupt machine-style politics that has ruled Brooklyn for decades.
[CONFLICT OF INTEREST]
“But Mr. Fidler’s ethical dilemmas only begin with his political cronyism; they certainly do not end there.
“Mr. Fidler has, for many years, been on the payroll as chief counsel to a company named LawCash. This is a company that advances money at extremely high interest rates to people who are suing corporations including the corporation of the City of New York.
“There are two problems with this.
“One, Mr. Fidler thinks it’s okay — in fact he’s said he’s “proud” of his association with (those are HIS words) — proud of his job at LawCash, a company that makes its living poaching low income people with little hope, and then bleeding them of large chunks of settlements, sometimes 30%, they are entitled to under the law.
“Do we really want a state senator that preys on the poor and is proud of it?
“And second, Mr. Fidler is under the employ of this company while he is a sitting City Councilman. This is an outrageous conflict of interest!
“This is a man who was elected by the people of New York to protect their interests, their tax dollars, and to be a good steward of the public trust. How can Mr. Fidler protect the interests if the taxpayers of New York City when, at the SAME time, he is the chief lawyer for a company that takes money from people who are suing this city?
“Now this issue has been raised in the press before. It is nothing new. But despite cries from government watch dog groups and newspapers like the New York Post and The Daily News against Mr. Fidler’s ethical conflict of interest, Mr. Fidler has persisted. He is still an chief lawyer for law cash, and as I said he’s even said he’s proud of it.
“Mr. Fidler has largely gone unopposed during thus far in his never ending quest for public office. That has meant that even if voters knew about his ethical lapses and conflicts of interests, they have had no credible alternative — no choice other than Mr. Fidler.
“But now voters DO have a choice. You don’t have to settle for the ethically challenged Mr. Fidler. You can vote for David Storobin, a man with integrity and who know that character counts.
[THE PUBLIC’S MONEY OR LEW FIDLER’S MONEY?]
“Now, Mr. Fidler has had more than a decade in public office, and even longer than that inside the Brooklyn political machine. Over that time, Mr. Fidler has developed an attitude about public money and public resources that is nothing less than offensive to me as a taxpayer.
“Mr. Fidler has a clear sense of entitlement about himself when it comes to using and abusing taxpayer money and public resources.
“In 2010, the New York Post exposed and documented Mr. Fidler’s history of abusing parking privileges at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Apparently Mr. Fidler thinks that all of us regular New Yorkers should have to pay for parking and pay outrageous parking tickets and penalties when we make a mistake, but as a member of the elite political establishment he feels he’s entitled to park where ever he wants, whenever he wants.
“But he didn’t stop there. Even after the NY Post exposed him, he has continued to abuse his office on the City Council by doing the same thing! Only last week, he was once again caught abusing parking privileges at the same place.
“Mr. Fidler got caught with his hang in the cookie jar. And then went back and tried to take a cookie again.
“This is unbelievable behavior by a public official that can only come from a blatant sense of entitlement to use and abuse his the powers and privileges of his office.
“But Mr. Fidler’s out-of-touch attitude about taxpayer money is not confined to parking.
“Mr. Fidler has also accepted public money to crush political opponents. In 2009, despite knocking his Democrat opponents off the ballot, and despite a Republican opponent who raised less than $700, Mr. Fidler took more than $84,000 in public, taxpayer money to promote himself across his City Council district and crush a non-existent opponent who refused public financing.
“This is an egregious and irresponsible waste of taxpayer money. And the New York Daily News agreed when they called on Mr. Fidler to repay the money.
“But did he? No… because he feels entitled to spend your, the taxpayer’s money promoting his own political interests and abusing his access to public campaign funds.
“Shame on you Mr. Fidler. You should return that money. It’s long overdue.
“Mr. Fidler’s ethical lapses and history of abuse of his privileges of public office show beyond a shadow of doubt that he is not the best choice to represent us in the state senate.
“He will go to any length to protect his political career… and that brings me back to where we started today.
“Mr. Fidler began this campaign by attacking my character with false and outrageous claims. And then when he got caught in his lie, he told another falsehood to defend himself, claiming that he simply “misspoke.”
“Let me directly answer Mr. Fidler’s claim that he misspoke.
“Mr. Fidler, why are you unable to tell the truth? …Why are you unable to tell the truth about what you said and why you said it.
“After you were caught on YouTube, and at other places, saying falsely that I had ties to neo-Nazi groups — after you got caught in a lie — your campaign doubled down and sent out a press release again accusing me of the same false charges.
“This proves that you did not misspeak in a momentary gaffe as you claim. No, you and your campaign made a decision to target my character and spread untrue rumors about me. It was your campaign strategy from the beginning.
“Well, you cam after my character, Mr. Fidler and were proven wrong.
“Now you must defend your own character problems… and they are many.
“Mr. Fiddler your history of ethical lapses and questionable behavior, your abuse of public resources and sense of entitlement, render you unfit to represent the people of Brooklyn in the State Senate.
“That’s my statement to you. And unlike you, I stand by it.”
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