Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin compared Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Hitler and Mussolini at a press conference Wednesday, drawing harsh condemnation from Jewish leaders and others.
Referring to the gun control bill that was approved by the Senate two hours after being unveiled, McLaughlin charged, “If that’s not dictatorial, I don’t know what is. Hitler would be proud. Mussolini would be proud of what we did here. Moscow would be proud. That’s not democracy.”
Although he was big enough to apologize, his regrets were not immediate. When a reporter asked him if his comments were appropriate, McLaughlin insisted, “How does Putin act over in Russia? Same thing. Dictate to the legislature what they’re going to do. They’re rubber-stamping it. I’m not calling the governor a dictator; I’m saying that this was the dictatorial thing to do.”
The Albany Times-Union noted that more than 20 Republican colleagues were silent and seen “nodding along” at the news conference.
McLaughlin profusely apologized several hours later, saying he is only human and it was an “honest mistake” made in the heat of representing his constituents, who live in parts of Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer counties.
“I made an analogy that I should not have made,” said McLaughlin. “I am very, very sorry about that. I apologize to the governor and to all of you. It was the wrong analogy to make.”
Jewish leaders called the remarks “inappropriate,” a view shared by both Democrat and Republican leaders in the legislature.
The gun-control bill was pushed through quickly by including the “message of necessity” waiver, which gets around the usual three-day period between the introduction of a bill and a vote on it. Republicans argued the waiver robbed them of an opportunity to veto the bill, which Republican Senator Greg Ball said has so many holes it looks like “Swiss cheese.”
Gov. Cuomo has used the “message of necessity” waiver as a “message of political expediency,” charged Glenville Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that messages are only used when “appropriate,” and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos admitted the gun control bill was passed in some “haste” although it messages of necessity can be “necessary.”
McLaughlin, a native of Massachusetts and a former airline pilot and banker, was elected two years ago to represent the 107th district.