Press Release: October 24, 2020

Astorino Shuns NAACP Debate in Peekskill

Still Unwilling to Denounce Racism and Bigotry

Peekskill, NY – Rob Astorino has declined to participate in a debate sponsored by the Peekskill NAACP—yet another indication that he is unconcerned with the problems of racism and bigotry that continue to affect the daily lives of millions of Americans, including residents of the 40th Senate District.

Pete Harckham, running for re-election to the State Senate, readily agreed to the debate with Astorino, but since the Peekskill NAACP will not host an “empty chair” event the debate has been cancelled.

“It truly is unfortunate that Rob Astorino has decided to turn his back on a discussion of the issues in Peekskill with Pete Harckham, which certainly sends a bad signal to the community members here,” said Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey. “We have 24,000-plus people in this city who Mr. Astorino clearly does not care about.”

Tom Staudter, a spokesperson for the Harckham campaign, added, “It is no surprise that Rob Astorino would skip this debate. His divisive rhetoric and racist dog whistles regarding what he imagines to be a crime wave in the suburbs are not resonating with hard-working residents.”

Last week, Harckham called on Astorino to denounce racism and bigotry in light of the number of high-profile hate incidents that have taken place in the 40th Senate District recently, but Astorino has stayed silent on the subject.

Similarly, after each of the hate incident in the area, beginning when a Black Lives Matter banner was set on fire at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in New Castle on August 6, not once did Astorino voice any objections or disavowals; and not once did he commiserate for the harmed communities.

And while Astorino has used his campaign to focus on law and order issues above all else, not once did he suggest any kind of retribution to the perpetrators of these disturbing actions, all of which have been termed hate crimes.

Astorino, in fact, doubled down on his support for racism and bigotry this week during a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. First, he gave wholehearted approval to Native American mascots. Then, when Harckham stated that there were bigots committing hate crimes in the district, Astorino said this was not true, stating “I have never seen a bigot, and I’ve lived here all my life.”

Working as a self-proclaimed “Trump translator,” Astorino repeatedly defended the president’s “very fine people” comment on television in 2017 supporting the rioting white supremacists in Charlottesville (see video)—an eerie echoing of his own comments a year earlier when a swastika and the words “White Power” were discovered along the Bronx River Parkway bike path in White Plains. Back then, he equated the hate incident with protesters unhappy with Trump’s election, earning a well-deserved backlash of criticism.

During the League of Women Voters debate Harckham again called on Astorino to denounce Trump’s Charlottesville remarks, which Astorino simply ignored.

But because his 2019 disclosure form shows that Astorino did consulting work for a controversial political business that was involved in anti-Semitic messaging, residents may wonder if he is intentionally aligning himself with racists and white supremacists.

Last month, when Trump laid out another racist dog whistle in the first presidential debate, signaling to the racist “Proud Boys” that they should “stand back and stand by,” there was not a peep of disgust or disavowal from Astorino. The self-proclaimed “Trump translator” was, again, complicit in his silence.


Tom Staudter

(914) 419-5221 mobile