Former New York Governor George Pataki has denounced a rabbi who said that the destruction New York received as a result of Hurricane Sandy was because same-sex marriage recently became legal in the state.
Pataki called on fellow Republican Neil DiCarlo, who is running on the Conservative Party line for a state Senate seat from the Hudson Valley, to condemn the remarks of Rabbi Noson Leiter. DiCarlo opposes same-gender marriage, and the Orthodox rabbi made the statements in support of DiCarlo’s third-party candidacy.
Rabbi Leiter, head of Torah Jews for Decency, made the comments during an October 30 radio interview. He called the devastating storm “divine justice,” particularly for lower Manhattan, which he branded “one of the national centers for homosexuality.”
Calling the rabbi’s remarks “offensive and disgraceful,” Pataki fumed, “It’s simply incomprehensible that anyone could attribute the devastation and loss of life caused by Hurricane Sandy to divine retribution against the New York State legislature. It’s like blaming America’s belief in freedom for the attacks of September 11.”
The rabbi equated Sandy to the Biblical storm that prompted Noah to build his ark. “The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world, but he can punish particular areas with that flood, and if we look at the same-gender-marriage recognition movement that’s occurring, that’s certainly a message for us to learn,” opined Leiter.
Pataki, a Republican who served three terms as governor, is a moderate who has supported some gay rights legislation, although he is opposed to same-sex marriage, which became legal in New York last year due to an aggressive push from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Pataki argued that because Leiter’s remarks were made in support of DiCarlo, the candidate “has a responsibility to repudiate them,” but DiCarlo has refused to do so.
DiCarlo’s Conservative challenge is a threat to the incumbency of longtime Senator Stephen Saland, one of four Republicans who voted last year to legalize gay marriage. Saland narrowly defeated DiCarlo in the September GOP primary, and Republicans fear DiCarlo’s presence on the Conservative Party line will draw votes away from Saland, helping Democrat Terry Gipson. Governor Cuomo crossed party lines to endorse Saland.