NEW YORK STATE — Governor Andrew Cuomo often emphasizes unity and inclusion in his speeches, but last week, the governor chose to launch an attack on the conservative wing of the Republican Party during a radio interview.
"Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay: Is that who they are? And if they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York," said Gov. Cuomo, D-New York, on Jan. 16.
The remarks have set off a firestorm of criticism among the national conservative media.
"It's a position that's going to leave him in the dust bin of history," said Glenn Beck in an appearance on Fox News.
And among Republican lawmakers here in New York.
"As an elected representative I represent all people. It doesn't matter whether you're liberal, conservative, moderate. Once I'm elected, I represent all of you and I think the governor needs to remember that," said Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon.
The remarks have provided an opening for Cuomo's possible Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
"He's a big boy. He's the governor. He's said that and he should own up to it and he should apologize. It's extremely disconcerting what he said. It's obnoxious," said County Executive Astorino, R-Westchester County.
Cuomo's office has sought to clarify his remarks, saying in statements directed at the New York Post and state columnist Fred Dicker that Cuomo was referring to political candidates and that he respects all opinions.
Democrats like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday he agreed with the governor.
"I intrepreted his remarks to say that an extremist attitude – that continues the reality of violence in our communities or an extremist attitude that denies the rights of women does not represent the views of the people of New York state," said Mayor de Blasio, D-New York City.
Advocates for causes like abortion rights also backed Cuomo.
"Yeah, I do think the governor was right on that. I mean, we've seen that New Yorkers believe in marriage equality. We've seen that New Yorkers overwhelmingly hold as a core value access to reproductive health care and access to abortion services," said Tracey Brooks, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York.
Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos, meanwhile, has taken the more cautious approach. He has not called on Cuomo to apologize.
"There's room for all types of opinion including pro-choice, pro-life; nobody should be cut out of the dialogue," said Sen. Skelos.