It’s Not the First Time Collins Called Silver an Anti-Christ
by Geoff Kelly - posted 9:39 am, October 29, 2009
When Erie County Executive Chris Collins called Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver an anti-Christ last Saturday night at a Republican dinner, it wasn’t the first time he’d pulled the line out of his bag.
Yesterday I asked Grant Loomis, the county executive’s director of communications, if Collins had ever made a similar reference to Silver before. He assured me that Collins had had not, that the remark was “unscripted” and “off the cuff.”
He then paused a moment and backed off a little, adding, “…to the best of my knowledge.”
I told Loomis about the Buffalo State students, and the two members of the faculty, and Loomis said, “Oh.”
He told me he’d look into it and get back to me. He did not, until this morning, when I wrote to him that I would take his failure to reply as a refusal to comment. He replied to that email immediately: “The CE has said everything there is to say in the statement,” referring to the apology Collins issued on Monday:
“Saturday night, I made a poor joke regarding the Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver. I want to extend my sincerest apologies to him for my comments. I have placed a call to the Speaker’s office to offer my apologies directly.
While we may disagree strongly on policy matters, my statement had no place in our political discourse and I am truly sorry to both the Speaker and to anyone else who I may have offended.”
I’m not going to take issue with the apology—it’s too easy to undermine the sincerity of a public apology, and it’s not fair: I can’t see into the heart of Chris Collins.
But it’s clear to me that his remark comparing an orthodox Jew to Hitler and the anti-Christ was not “off the cuff” or “unscripted”; it was not a momentary lapse in judgment. The joke is part of Collins’s repertoire. He has used it more than once, who knows how many times. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware that it was offensive until the uncomfortable silence he met at the Adam’s Mark on Saturday night. Maybe he didn’t know it was offensive until Elizabeth Benjamin exposed the remarks in the New York Daily News on Sunday. Maybe he still doesn’t believe what he said was offensive. He certainly did not recognize it to be offensive between the time he made the remark to that group of college students and the time he made the remark on Saturday. Or he did and didn’t care. The former makes him an idiot, the latter makes him arrogant and heedless.
And, as Bruce Fisher writes in this week’s cover story, giving him a pass on this makes us all look bad.
UPDATE: Grant Loomis sent out a second statement this morning, after our email exchange. Here it is:
“The County Executive, at times, uses very harsh language in taking on what he believes are opponents of the taxpayers. As the descendant of a Jewish grandfather, the County Executive recognizes that this characterization of the Speaker is wrong. He has apologized for that characterization publicly, and personally apologized to the Speaker. The County Executive will not let this mistake, however, distract him from his focus on protecting taxpayers and challenging the status quo locally and in Albany.”
Still no denial. So he’s called Silver hateful things before, and now that he’s been caught out, he recognizes what he said was wrong. Call it adult education, on Erie County’s dime.