By Anna Gustafson
Bob Turner, a Republican running against U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), responded this week to a letter the congressman sent to him asking him to condemn Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.
Weiner sent the letter to Turner last week, in which he said Turner should denounce Paladino’s reported statement comparing state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to Adolf Hitler. Paladino has denied making this statement. The Niagara Gazette first reported Paladino likened Silver to Hitler during a public forum in upstate New York earlier this year.
“I will not be held accountable for the alleged comments of another member of the Republican Party any more than I will ask you to account for the actions of [U.S. Rep.] Charlie Rangel,” Turner wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Weiner.
House of Representatives investigators accused the longtime Harlem legislator of 13 violations of congressional ethics standards at the end of July, including failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on his financial disclosure statements. Rangel has denied the investigators’ allegations.
In his letter, Turner asked Weiner to meet with him at a public forum to discuss various issues facing constituents in the 9th Congressional District, which includes Bayside, Briarwood, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Hillcrest, Howard Beach, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Oakland Gardens, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Point, Woodhaven and parts of Brooklyn.
“Congressman Weiner, it is time for you to stop the political games and start addressing the real issues that are facing our country,” Turner wrote. “I invite you to join me for a town hall meeting with the residents of our district to discuss the real issues, taxes, the deficit, job creation and health care.”
Weiner said he would gladly accept a request to debate Turner, who he called a “right wing extremist.”
The congressman in his own letter said it was important for Turner to condemn Paladino’s reported statement, particularly because “we have seen a frightening rise in hateful speech and anti-Semitism across the country.”
“The candidate that you pledged to support for governor, Carl Paladino, has compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, saying, ‘If I could ever describe a person who fit the bill of an Antichrist or a Hitler, this guy is it,’” Weiner wrote. “This kind of hateful, poisonous rhetoric has no place in our democracy.”
A spokesman for Turner said the candidate has not endorsed Paladino, who won last week’s Republican primary, has been cheered by the Tea Party movement and is running against Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Weiner criticized Bob Turner in his letter for praising Paladino.
“For a candidate that you said is ‘dynamic’ and who would be ‘a forceful leader,’ this kind of language is wildly inappropriate and hurtful,” Weiner wrote of Paladino’s comparison.
Matthew Turner said his father had made statements “something similar” to what the letter said after a member of Weiner’s camp asked Bob Turner during a town hall if he supported Paladino or former GOP candidate Rick Lazio.
“He basically said he admired Mr. Lazio for being a man of principle and integrity,” Matthew Turner wrote in an e-mail. “He did not endorse either candidate.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.