New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been scrambling to shore up his progressive bona fides in the face of a robust primary challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon. One result of this: Over the past week, Cuomo has made a number of comments arguing that he understands the plight of immigrants because he, too, is an “undocumented person.” (He’s, uh, not.)
During a union rally last Wednesday, Cuomo proclaimed that he was “raised by poor immigrants from South Jamaica.” (South Jamaica is a neighborhood in Queens. His father, Mario Cuomo, was born in New York, and his mother, Matilda Cuomo, was also born in New York.)
A day later, the governor said in the same vein, “I’m an Italian-American, I came from poor Italian-Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian-Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what wop stood for? Without papers. I’m undocumented. You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me, because I’m an undocumented person.”
Again, Cuomo, who was born in Queens, is not undocumented. Also, “wop” is not actually a term for “without papers.”
These remarks are particularly egregious given the fact that The New York Times recently reported that Cuomo has “urged labor leaders to stop giving money to liberal community groups backing Ms. Nixon.” This includes one of the state’s most prominent immigrant rights groups, Make the Road.
In response, Make the Road released a statement on Wednesday calling Cuomo’s remarks “offensive” and saying that Cuomo “has no idea what it’s like to live as an undocumented person.” The group also noted that he has been calling himself “middle class,” despite the fact that he is obviously not.
Cuomo has also allowed the Independent Democratic Conference—a group of eight breakaway state Senate Democrats who caucus with the Republican Party, effectively giving conservatives the majority—to exist for years. (He recently reunited the two factions, despite having regularly claimed that he had no power to do so.) This bizarre arrangement has stalled legislation like New York’s DREAM Act which would help actual undocumented immigrants (as opposed to fake ones, like Andrew Cuomo).
It’s not the first time Cuomo has tried to identify with groups in which he firmly does not belong. When protests erupted around Donald Trump’s first attempt at a Muslim travel ban, Cuomo read the following statement from a piece of paper at a press conference: “As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. As a New Yorker, I am Jewish. As a New Yorker, I am Black. I am gay. I am disabled. I am a woman seeking to control her health and her choices. Because as a New Yorker we are one community.”
Cuomo, a New York governor, is the son of a former New York governor. All the dramatic rhetoric in the world won’t change that fact, even when it’s politically advantageous.