Who is Curtis Sliwa? GOP NYC mayoral nominee once said Jews ‘siphoning off social services'
An activist, founder and now politician, Curtis Sliwa is making headlines for antisemitic comments he made in 2018. Sliwa, who is the Republican Party's nominee for Mayor of New York City, also famously once called Donald Trump a "screwball and a crackpot". Now, he is being slammed for his controversial take on Jews, ahead of the high-profile elections in NYC.
Sliwa is far from the only GOP politician to offer up some unsavory comments of late. In May, Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene divided the GOP over her comments likening mask mandates to being forced to wear a Star of David. Several GOP members, including Rep Kinzinger, called for her to be expelled, but to no avail. Google's Head of Diversity Kamau Bobb also made headlines in June after an old antisemitic blog came to light. Back in February, 'The Mandalorian' star Gina Carano also drew up a lot of controversy for her antisemitic social media posts, leading her to be fired by Disney.
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The Republican Party, in particular, has had a huge issue with antisemitism. In February, The Washington Post noted that 199 House Republicans had openly embraced antisemitism. Now we know the issue is far more widespread than that. Sliwa is just the latest name to be dragged in, but he is no stranger to controversy. In fact, he's routinely made headlines in New York for his politics.
Who is Curtis Sliwa?
A resident of Brooklyn, Sliwa has been courting trouble right from childhood. He was expelled from Brooklyn Prep School during his senior year for student activism. It's unclear what exactly he did, but reports say he had a strong anti-crime ideology growing up on the streets dominated by small-time criminals. As a result of that expulsion, he was forced to forgo a scholarship to Brown University. He ended up working as a night manager at a McDonald's in The Bronx instead.
To and from work on the 4 train in the late ’70s, Sliwa envisioned an idea for a crime-free Brooklyn. And thus was born the Guardian Angels. On February 13, 1979, Sliwa started the group of crime fighters, which has now spread to 13 countries worldwide including Canada, Japan, Spain and the UK. The group drew both positive and negative reactions and was even praised by then-lieutenant governor Mario Cuomo.
However, it soon became apparent that all was not as it seemed. In 1992, Sliwa admitted to faking some incidents for publicity, as well as falsely claiming three off-duty transit police officers had kidnapped him. That led the New York City transit police union to sue him for injuring the union's reputation. In June that year, Sliwa was also kidnapped and shot by two gunmen. He escaped by jumping out of the car and living to tell the tale after surgery. Federal prosecutors eventually charged John A Gotti of the Gambino crime family for the incident.
In the 90s, Sliwa became a radio broadcaster and is now considered a popular conservative talk show host. He remained in the media until he turned to politics in 2016. In September, he launched a successful hostile takeover of the Reform Party of New York State. However, two years later it lost its ballot access because it didn't receive enough votes. Not to be defeated, the outspoken critic officially joined the Republican Party in February 2021. Why wait till 2021? Because Sliwa was no fan of Trump.
Once Trump left, Sliwa joined the party and began his campaign for Mayor. It also turned him against longtime friend Fernando Mateo, who was also contesting for Mayor. He eventually beat Mateo to clinch the nomination, with 69 per cent of voters saying yes to him.
Sliwa slams Jews: 'All they do is make babies'
The comments from Sliwa emerged from a 2018 videotaped rant. At the time, he was still with the Reform Party. He made the comments during a party meeting in the Hudson Valley on October 25. The video is still up on Facebook, where Sliwa can be heard saying, "We’re not talking about poor, impoverished, disabled people who need help. We’re talking about able-bodied men who study Torah and Talmud all day and we subsidize them."
Sliwa added, "And then all they do is make babies like there’s no tomorrow and who’s subsidizing that? We are." He then called the ultra-Orthodox sects "the worst when it comes to siphoning off social services — the absolute worst". Sliwa spent 20 more minutes ranting about "the bloc". He spoke for about an hour, touching on a lot of other topics. However, it was his comments about the Jews that got widespread attention on social media.
"Why do white men think they have the power to define what others call them after they do they are accused of doing. It’s 2021, and #curtissliwa is an antisemite and long-known racist," one person said. Another tweeted, "Curtis Sliwa is a racist. A video that resurfaced with Sliwa trashing Chasidim is disgusting. Anyone who votes for him is an enabler. @bernieandsid should not give any air time to antisemites."
Why do white men think they have the power to define what others call them after they do they are accused of doing. It’s 2021, and #curtissliwa is an antisemite and long-known racist.— Undray Rogers (@UndrayR) June 26, 2021
Curtis Sliwa is a racist. A video that resurfaced with Sliwa trashing Chasidim is disgusting. Anyone who votes for him is an enabler. @bernieandsid should not give any air time to antisemites.— NYCPHOTOG (@nycphotog) June 24, 2021
After the video emerged, Sliwa issued a public statement through a video and said he would reach out to Jewish leaders to "discuss our differences". He added, "but please, don't call me an anti-semite. My two youngest sons have been raised Jewish." He hasn't explicitly apologized though.