WO Interview w/ Angelo Martinelli

And now we lose Angelo Martinelli.

It’s happening with greater and greater frequency.  (There’s an entire Eulogy section in my new book RADIOactive coming out next year).

I spoke with the patriarch of the Martinelli clan just last week about his ailing son.  He was on his way down to New Jersey to visit him.

Here is a transcript of an interview we did a few years ago with Angelo … a Westchester Legend who easily answered to the name “Mr. Yonkers.”

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview

with

Angelo Martinelli

August 24, 2015

 

 

William O’Shaughnessy:

The legends are out today at our community station.  We just saw Mr. Justice Samuel George Fredman.  He is all of 93 and he’s just now heading down the hall into a studio.  I’m in Studio 1A with another certifiable Westchester legend. You know the name for years and years and years.  He was the legendary lord mayor of Yonkers … where true love conquers … and you ask anybody on the streets of Yonkers and they think he’s still the mayor.  He’s a multi-millionaire publisher and I just found out he was also a broadcaster.  His name is Angelo Martinelli.  Mr. Mayor … they’re making a new career for you on television – on HBO … with a mini-series.

 

Angelo Martinelli:

This is my last hoorah!  They regurgitated the whole desegregation thing in Lisa Belkin’s book Show Me A Hero.  In that book I play a very small role.  But they expanded it in the series and they have Jim Belushi – the actor – playing me.  I sent him an email: “you’re a better Angelo Martinelli than I was!” 

 

WO:

You’ve been a larger than life figure in Westchester for years.  How old are you now, Angelo?

 

AM:

87 years old!

 

WO:

Do you feel 87?

 

AM:

No … I feel about 37!  I don’t feel 87 … you look in the mirror and you’re 87 years old.  That’s an old guy!   But I really don’t feel that old. 

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor Angelo Martinelli … your son and heir Ralph Martinelli – publisher of one of your magazines, actually all of them – he tells me you have holdings in the State of Delaware – in Joe Biden country – and you drive down there all by your lonesome!

 

AM:

Oh, sure.  Not only do I drive to Delaware, I drive to Florida for three months every year.  I drive to Florida in my own car!  My wife passed away last November and she would drive with me.  Actually she never drove.  She slept.  But God bless her. 

 

WO:

Do you miss her?

 

AM

I miss her terribly.  But do you know something, Bill, God was good to me – he’s always been good to me – and he gave me 65 wonderful years with a woman that was “the wind beneath my sails.” 

 

WO:

What was Mrs. Martinelli’s first name?

 

AM:

Carol …

 

WO:

I hear she was almost as vivid a personality as you are.

 

AM:

She was in the background.  She was never was out front.  But she did a lot.  She raised six sons and we have 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren and more on the way!  But she was the matriarch of the family and she did a fantastic job.  When she passed away there were tributes paid to her at the wake.  So many people came I was shocked.  So many people said nice things about her because she was a nice person.  Maybe I wasn’t so nice at times … but she was a nice person.

 

WO:

What’s the secret of 65 years together with the same woman? 

 

AM:

You’ve got to love each other.  And I mean you’ve really got to love each other.  The secret of it is that she was always there for the family … because I was out all the time, doing my thing.  My thing was the mayor and the owner of Gazette Press and then starting my magazines.  All the magazines I started.  I did a lot of it and she was home taking care of the family and I think we knew our role and we were very, very compatible.  We had our arguments … there’s no doubt about it.  That’s the fun of it all … getting over the argument.  So I was blessed.  I was honestly blessed to have had 65 years.  And some people say you must feel bad.  I say no … I don’t feel bad.  I feel thankful to God that He gave me that time with her.

 

WO:

Are you pretty religious?

 

AM

I’m very religious, Bill.  Very, very religious and I’m not ashamed to say it. 

 

WO:

Mario Cuomo used to say he prays for “sureness.”  Are you sure about all the Church teachings and an afterlife? 

 

AM:

I have full faith in the Church teachings and an afterlife and everything.  I am fully committed.  I believe in God … I say my prayers everyday.  People don’t think I do.  But I have a prayer book and I say it everyday. 

 

WO:

What’s the most powerful prayer?

 

AM:

Do you know what the most powerful prayer has been?  Here’s what it is.  I’m not ashamed to tell you.  “Dear Lord … thank you for giving me the strength and health to carry on.”  That’s the first thing.  Then I say! “Thank you for giving me 65 years with a wonderful woman. And thank you for the family you gave me through that woman.  And thank you for the graces and blessings you have bestowed upon me and my family.”  That’s basically the start of my prayer …

 

WO:

We’re talking today – a great privilege for us – just walking in the door we could feel your energy even at the age of 87.  But you know, I almost called you Ralph Martinelli. 

 

AM:

My brother …!

 

WO:

Tell us about him.

 

AM

Ralph was one in a million. 

 

WO:

You’re Angelo and he’s Ralph.

 

AM:

My brother Ralph.  He was one in a million.  He really fought hard.  You know … we disagreed because he attacked many of my friends. 

 

WO:

He was a little more “conservative” … shall we say?

 

AM:

Well, it’s often been said he was very much like Genghis Khan!  We disagreed because he attacked my friends.  And after he died … I got called up by the newspaper asking if I was ever embarrassed by my brother.  I say yes.  I was embarrassed when his newspapers attacked my friends.  A lot of my friends … Governor Pataki … and others.  I said to them that didn’t mean I didn’t love him.  I loved him with a passion …

 

WO:

Your brother Ralph Martinelli was publisher of a string of weekly newspapers and my favorite was The Eastchester Record.  Do you remember Vinny Bellew?

 

AM:

Absolutely!  A banker … a former banker.

 

WO:

He used to write fabulous, graceful, passionate articles.  And as I recall he was also the recreation superintendent in the town.  Has Westchester changed Angelo Martinelli?  From when were you mayor?

 

AM

I was mayor from 1974 – 1987 – except for two years.

 

WO:

Those were also the days of Malcolm Wilson, of sainted memory.

 

AM:

Malcolm was my mentor!  Malcolm Wilson did something for me in 1974 when I got inducted as mayor outside city hall, on the steps … Governor Malcolm Wilson swore me in.  Now you have to understand … on New Years Day … the custom of the new governor – because Rocky had left and Malcolm became governor for one year … and on New Year’s Day the governors open their home, the Mansion, up in Albany to the public. He had to forego that and came down and swore me in.  I was on the front page of the New York Times only because Malcolm swore me in.  Otherwise if he didn’t come down maybe I would have been on the front page of the Herald Statesman, the local paper.

 

WO:

They called Malcolm Wilson the greatest orator Fordham ever graduated. Mario Cuomo used to say ” In a debate … Malcolm would defeat you in English … and then finish you off in Latin!”

 

AM:

Absolutely … he was a champion debater, the greatest I had ever heard. And there was another one from Fordham … Bill Mulligan. 

 

WO:

William Hughes Mulligan … a Federal judge and great after-dinner speaker.

 

AM:

Judge Mulligan is in Show Me A Hero because there was an incident that happened after I lost the election to Wasicsko and before he took office – between November and January – these four people, Wasicsko, Longo, Spallone and Chema and maybe Fagan –

 

WO:

Those are legendary Yonkers names …

 

AM

They wanted to hire a new attorney.  We were wasting money.  We wasted already $15 – 20 million on attorneys.  And I said why should we waste any more money? 

 

WO:

Why were you hiring all these lawyers?

 

AM:

Because they thought they could get a lawyer to win the Desegregation case.  And so they hired Bill Mulligan because he was a constitutional attorney.  There was a little break in the meeting because they were going to vote  – I said, Bill I came here not to vote for a new attorney because it’s just a waste of time and money.  But I said I can’t ever vote against Bill Mulligan.  I just can’t.  If you tell me there’s a constitutional chance we can win this case, I will vote for you.  He said there might be a constitutional way to do it.  So I said I’m going to vote for you.  But I’m not as old as you are and not as learned as you are.  But I’m going to give you a little advice.  I said there’s an old saying that if you lay down with dogs you’re going to come out with fleas.  I said you’re going to be laying down with the worst dogs you ever saw when you take on this case because I will be out of office January 1st.  But you’re going to have to be here.  He said … why do you say that?  Well, I’m just telling you.  And let me tell you about another event.  There’s a portion in Show Me A Hero where the Cardinal – Cardinal O’Connor – actually says he would give a piece of the Seminary property at Dunwoodie for low income housing.  He told that to Bill Mulligan who was a trustee of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. And Bill Mulligan referred that to Judge Leonard Sand and Judge Sand called up – in the show – Cardinal O’Connor – and asked him did you really tell him this.  And he said for poor people I will do it.  Now what happened is the people from Saint John’s Church – which is right around the Seminary on Yonkers Avenue – they said we’re not going to give any more money in the basket  and we’re not going to give to the Cardinal’s Appeal and we’re going to go to other churches because what the Cardinal is doing is wrong – giving this piece of property.  The Cardinal – after this pressure on him – then said he was “mislead” and he backs off.  In fact, he calls Bill Mulligan a liar … and insisted that he never said that.  But he said it.  And I believed Bill Mulligan. 

 

WO:

Is that all in the movie …?

 

AM:

That’s in the movie. 

 

WO:

I just felt Saint Patrick’s Cathedral shake, rumble as you’re telling that story … that’s where His Eminence John O’Connor is buried. 

 

AM:

I’m just saying  that was not good.  And then Spallone became mayor and they owed Mulligan’s firm a lot of money – maybe $600 – 700,000.00.  He told Mulligan I will never pay you.  And he made Mulligan’s firm drag.  They finally did get paid after awhile.  But he gave them ulcers.  I met Bill Mulligan after that.  He said to me … boy were you right about laying down with dogs. 

 

WO:

William Hughes Mulligan was a huge name around here and in the judiciary.  Mr. Mayor Angelo Martinelli … it’s so wonderful to re-visit these things.  You can see a lot of this on television these summer nights – on the HBO Show Me A Hero.  You’re played by Jim Belushi. 

 

AM

Yes … a great actor. 

 

WO:

Did he do right by you?

 

AM:

He did.  As a matter of fact, he called me from London a while back.  He said I’m coming in tomorrow and maybe we can get together.  I said why don’t you come up to Yonkers and I’ll take you to Peter Kelly’s X2O and we’ll have lunch.  He brought his brother Billy with him.  He was dressed very casually, I have to tell you right now … when you meet Jim Belushi it’s like meeting a member of the family.  He’s just a down-to-earth guy.  And we got along.  We spoke for two and a half hours.  And what he wanted to find out is my feelings during the time this happened.  He wanted to get into me so he could play me.  And I have to tell you something, from what I see portrayed, he’s playing me even better than I am!

 

WO:

Yonkers … where true love conquers.  It seems like you had your share – more than your share – of colorful characters over the years.  You come from a time – Angelo Martinelli – we put you back with Nelson Rockefeller … and as I’ve said, with Malcolm Wilson, with Edwin Gilbert Michaelian and Bill Luddy, the Democrat war lord … and Ogden Reid … and Herman Geist … and Sam Fredman …

 

AM:

And don’t forget Sal Prezioso who became my city manager.  I brought him in.  What a wonderful man.  And he did something for me that as a politician nobody else did.  I was known in Yonkers as something of a bull in a China shop … a pit bull, at that … and … I have to tell you right now … I had all that energy.  And so what happened is when I brought Sal Prezioso in as city manager he opened up Westchester County to me. He knew everybody in Westchester County.  And people who had said “Oh … that Martinelli … he’s just going off the deep end.  But he said to them Martinelli is a great guy.  And he made me better than I am.  He made me better known and better liked all around Westchester County because that’s how strong and respected Sal Prezioso was. 

 

WO:

It’s no surprise that you’re a Republican, Mr. Mayor.  Tell me what’s going on in your party now nationally … Trump and company, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz … Chris Christie, George Pataki (I like him a lot!)  You’ve still got a lot of juice in the GOP tribe … so predict for us.

 

AM:

Well, let me tell you something.  I think Trump is saying things people want to hear.  You can get elected – like in Yonkers – if I told people what they wanted to hear – that I was going to fight this case – I probably would have gotten re-elected.  But if you tell them the truth of how things are really going to happen – you’re not going to get elected.  Trump is telling people what they want to hear.  Some of the stuff he says is true.  But he is killing himself with other things  he says.  Things I think are not good for him as a politician. 

 

WO:

Like what …?

 

AM

When he criticized John McCain … when he criticized that woman, the moderator Megyn Kelly at the debate. If you criticize him … he’s going to come back at you and you don’t know what he’s going to say because he can say the most awful things that should not come out of the mouth of a politician. While he says some good things about immigration and all that … he says other things that really knock him down.  He doesn’t become viable to me even though he’s getting the vote from people.  I don’t think he’s a viable candidate.  And remember something.  You have like 20 people in there.  He’s got 20%.  What’s 20% of 100%.  It’s very small.  So when you start to narrow the other people down, if he keeps his 20%, somebody is going to get  80%.  Somebody else is going to get 80%.  I don’t think he’s going to be around …

 

WO:

You still know how to count votes, Angelo.

 

AM:

That’s the secret of it.  One time when I was mayor – as a Republican – Conservative – early on in my administration I got to support the tenants and I had a lot of landlords who were good friends of mine.

They said to me, Angelo, you’re a Republican-Conservative.  That’s a “Democratic view” you’re supporting with the tenants and the Tenant’s Protection Act.  They said, why?  I said I learned how to count.  There’s 80,000 tenants.  There’s four landlords.  Where am I going to get my votes from?  Tell me where I’m going to get my votes!  But, in truth, I didn’t do it just because of that.  I supported the tenants and I actually became the champion of the tenants.  I was the first one to have a tenant advocate in my office as mayor.

 

WO:

At the age of 87, Angelo Martinelli, Mr. Mayor, you’re quite entitled to pick the next president for us … because you’re also to this day a baron of the Republican Party.  Who do you want?

 

AM:

I can’t pick anybody right now, Bill.  I like Marco Rubio.  I think he’s good.  I like Jeb Bush, to tell you the truth.  I know a lot of people don’t like him.  I thought he was a good governor of Florida.  And I like Carly Fiorina, from California. 

 

WO:

What about George Elmer Pataki?

 

AM

George Pataki is a great guy.  I don’t think he’s going to get anywhere.  I like George Pataki.  He’s got a good message out there.  This is not like the time he ran against Mario Cuomo.  Do you understand.  I know Mario Cuomo was very close to you and he was close to me too.  I loved him too.  But when Pataki ran against Mario Cuomo, people voted against Mario Cuomo … they didn’t vote for George Pataki.  He didn’t realize that the first time when he got elected.  Now he got elected again.  This isn’t going to be a time when they are voting against somebody that George Pataki has an opportunity.  I don’t think he’s got the support generally throughout the country. 

 

WO:

I think he’d make a great vice president.

 

AM:

I think he would.  Yes.  But I don’t think he’ll ever be president.  He may never be vice president. 

 

WO:

Forgive me, but there’s a Democrat I kind of like … named Joe Biden.

 

AM:

I shouldn’t say this to you on the Radio but I always thought Hillary is going to implode before she gets the nomination.  I think something is going to happen.

 

 

WO:

When did you say it?

 

AM:

Months ago … when all this thing came up about the emails and all that.  I think they’re going to go after her.  And if Joe Biden gets into this election … I think you’re going to see Obama really step up against Hillary … against Hillary.  And I think Joe’s a good guy.  I know Joe from the Delaware magazines we own and he’s very close to my son Rob down in Delaware.  He comes to all the Delaware magazine things.  I think he’s very, very good guy.

 

WO:

Angelo Martinelli we’ve taxed our friendship of many years too much today.  You’re a popular figure on every street in Yonkers and beloved in some.  Every talk show host is trying to grab you.  And I’ve kept you too long.

 

AM

I said this is my last hoorah! 

 

WO:

At 87 … I’m fascinated.  Before I let you go … tell me again … you drive to Florida alone!  Do you take vitamins?  What are you on?

 

AM:

I came back from Florida and they found I’m anemic.  They started giving me iron pills.  I’m taking iron pills.  I’m being checked up on pretty well.  Most everything seems to be running well! 

 

WO:

Mr. Mayor … do you ever get stopped by the troopers between here and Florida?  That’s a long drive.

 

AM:

No … I got one ticket in all the time I’ve done this.  And I’ve done it many, many years.  I got one ticket.  I was going 80 miles an hour coming back and they stopped me.  I paid it and that was the end of it.  Most of the time I’m going around 70 or 75 and they leave me alone.

 

WO:

Don’t you have your old badge as mayor.

 

AM:

I’ve got my old badge, but I don’t use it.  I have a little sticker that I support the police.  I haven’t been stopped since, so that’s good.

 

WO:

You’re a delight, sir.  You’ve perked us up and given us hope that maybe Yonkers will make it after all … and that maybe this County of Westchester … will make it.

 

AM

Yonkers is a great city. It’s a great city.  It has all the ingredients.  And I think Mike Spano is doing a great job as the mayor.

 

WO:

You do …?

 

AM:

Yes I do.  I think he’s doing a good job as mayor of Yonkers … he’s really bringing people together.

 

WO:

The Spanos and Martinellis … ever any tension there?  These are the two big political families in your home heath.

 

AM:

Well, I think the father of that other family – Lenny – and I get along very well.  And my wife and Josephine Spano were honored by the Exchange Club together.  And to honor my Carol and Josephine Spano together was very nice for both of them.  But I don’t think we’ve ever gotten into anything difficult or unpleasant.

 

WO:

You’ve never bumped up against the Spanos?

 

AM:

No … never bumped up against them.  No.

 

WO:

Sir, you honor us with your presence and with your entire life of 87years. If Mario Cuomo were here he’d tell you to “Keep Going!” 

 

AM

Mario Cuomo did some great favors for me, Bill.  And he was a good guy, a really good guy.  I met him when he was secretary of state and he was on the Control Board with me back in the 1970’s.  And we became friends.  He was a good man.  A good honest man.  That’s what he was.  A … good … honest man.  I liked him for that.  Now there’s a lot of people who didn’t like his liberal leanings, you might say, and things like that.  But he told it like it was, I thought.  And because he told it like it was, he lost the election.  I told it as it was and I too lost an election.  So there’s actually some similarities between us.

 

WO:

You’re 87 … do you know what Mario would say to you right now?  “Per cent’anni.” 

 

AM:

Yes … for 100 years.  That’s right!  Live … for a hundred years …

 

 

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He has also written “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published.  He is currently working on his fifth book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tributes.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher –
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

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John Pritchard Eulogy – Joe Spinelli

This perfect eulogy was given by my friend of many years Joe Spinelli who was a great friend of Mario Cuomo.  Spinelli spoke movingly and passionately about his fellow lawman John Pritchard on October 12, 2018.

Joseph Anthony Spinelli was part of a legendary three-man FBI squad with Pritchard and Louis Freeh (Spinelli became New York State’s Inspector General under Mario Cuomo, Louis Freeh became a Federal Judge and Director of the FBI).  John Pritchard was not only a Special Agent in the Bureau, he also served as Inspector General of the MTA and Police Commissioner in Mount Vernon, NY during an illustrious career in law enforcement. 

My name is Joe Spinelli, and I’ve known John for over 40 years and had the privilege to be John’s partner in the FBI for almost 7 years.

Normally when I address a group in any forum I like to speak extemporaneously, but not today. I wrote my thoughts down today, because I did not want to omit anything.

When Anne requested I speak today I was honored.  And yet I knew this would be difficult, because grief affects us all and does not discriminate.

I have never considered John to be just a friend. To do so would be an insult to both of us. John will always be my brother, and I loved and respected him as my brother. He was a gentle man and a true gentleman. He earned every accolade bestowed on him, and he gave all he had to be the best at what he did. And he achieved success despite the bias and prejudices he often faced as an African-American.  He did so by the simple eloquence of his example.

John visited me a few months ago in New York and we had dinner. He told me he wanted to say goodbye in person and we told each other how much we loved each other, and I’m thankful I got the chance to tell him how blessed I was to have him in my life.

John told me to please speak at his Memorial Service, but was quick to admonish me to only speak about stories and events in which the Statute of Limitations has expired. Unfortunately, after over 40 years together, I could only come up with three such stories that met that criteria.

In 1976, John was assigned as a new Agent to our Criminal Squad that dealt with fugitives and organized crime. The first time John and I worked together, I had to serve a subpoena on an organized crime member in the meat packing district of New York City. Now this should have been a routine deal. We located the organized crime figure who was not happy to see us, and the next thing that happened- we found ourselves surrounded by six individuals all holding meat hooks! I looked at John and he smiled and said, “I’m not going anywhere.” After I removed the barrel of my B57 from the bad guy’s mouth, and all the meat hooks hit the floor … we successfully served our subpoena. From that day forward, John and I were partners.

In 1979, while riding in a Bureau car in New York City, over the radio came a call “91 new” which meant a bank robbery was in progress. We were two blocks away from the bank and responded. When we arrived at the bank, three African American men came running out of the bank. John and I immediately began pursuing them on foot. Before we got half a block, three white males came out of the bank and opened fire on us. They were the actual bank robbers. And as we took cover John looked at me and with that vintage Pritchard grin said, “You have to stop always blaming the black guys.” We laughed out loud and then were fortunate to apprehend all three of the bank robbers. 

Finally, while I was N.Y. State Inspector General I began the Adopt-a-School Anti-Drug Program in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I would invite various individuals to present on Career Day to the entire school at assembly. John came and totally mesmerized these youngsters. While addressing them he grabbed my right hand and placed it next to his and asked them: “What is the difference between his hand and mine?” Immediately in unison, the students responded your hand is black and his is white. John shook his head no and said: “There is no difference.  You see … Joe and I are brothers.” I will never forget that moment and the reaction and message sent to those youngsters. I also will never forget how proud I was when John asked me to be Joe’s godfather.

Thomas Paine once wrote: “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and Angels know of us. The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”

When I remember John, and I will for the rest of my life, I will remember his leadership, integrity, valor and impeccable character. He always possessed the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make difficult decisions, and the empathy and compassion to be sensitive to all people. He never feared to choose right over wrong and truth over popularity. He taught me that there is never a wrong time to do what is right. And what you say and do in life defines who you are.  And who you are … you are forever.

Each of us loved John because of this. So tonight when your knees hit the floor … please ask God to love him.

A wise man once wrote that the greatest of all journeys are those journeys that take you home. John is home now, at peace and waiting to one day be reunited with his beloved Anne and his children.

Rest in peace my Brother.

                                      October 12, 2018

William O’Shaughnessy Interview with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

A far-ranging interview with Governor Andrew Cuomo … like you’ve never heard him.  He almost sounds like Mario on this one.

Earlier today he spoke with William O’Shaughnessy, Editorial Director of Whitney Global Media’s WVOX, an old family friend of the Cuomo Family. 

His stunningly candid, exclusive interview with Governor Cuomo follows. 


William O’Shaughnessy:

This is Bill O’Shaughnessy with a very special interview.  We switch to his Office in Manhattan for the Governor of New York … Andrew Mark Cuomo.  Governor Cuomo, I’ve known you for a long time.  Your family has meant a lot to me and mine.  Will you trust me to conduct myself properly?

Governor Cuomo:

I always trust you … to conduct yourself properly, no!  But I do have a deep trust for you. And I love how you say Gover-NORE.  And my Father loved how you said Gover-NORE.  And my Father loved you, Bill.  He had tremendous respect and tremendous affection for you, always.  And it was well deserved.  As do I.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor Cuomo, how is your Mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo doing?

Governor Cuomo:

She is indefatigable.  She is just the Energizer Bunny.  She’s doing very well.  She’s staying in touch with all the grandchildren.  She’s calling and she’s remembering birthdays. She’s also picked up, Bill, on the Mentoring that meant so much to her.  She’s doing that on a State-wide basis.  As you know, she was a public-school teacher and she never really stopped teaching.  When we lost my Father and she had that void in her life that she needed to fill, I think, sub-consciously, she re-engaged in Mentoring with an energy that was just unbelievable. I think it was just partially her therapy to deal with the loss. 

Because, as you know, her whole life was my Father.  They were together all the time.  They did everything together.  It’s such a big hole in her life.  You go into the apartment and it’s like a shrine to my Father.  She’s doing the Mentoring.  She’s staying in touch with the grandchildren.  She gives me her commentary on the news accounts on a daily basis.  She’s sharp as a tack. She’s all “sugar,” my Mother. She’s all sweetness, she always has been.  She’s all genuineness, even being exposed to the rough edges of politics for all those years.  She never lost her fundamental sweetness and softness.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor Cuomo, your Mother told me something I’d never heard about you. First of all, she calls you the Energizer Governor!  You called her the Energizer Mother!  But she said sometimes you pull yourself out of the frantic, busy, political life and go over and just sit on her terrace. She says you like her potato omelet!    What’s so great about them?

Governor Cuomo:

She makes a potato omelet like no other potato omelet!  (laughter)  It is delicious.  I tell you … when my Father was alive, I went over all the time because he wasn’t well, toward the end.  So I just wanted to spend as much time with him as I could.  I just loved to talk to him as we both did, whether agree with him or disagree with him.  It was just a delightful conversation and always an exciting conversation.  Since my Father has been gone I go over more just to spend time with my Mother. 

There’s a sadness for me when I go there because there is so much of my Father in that apartment.  So many memories.  But she just loves quality time and she loves to cook.  As you know, she always has … in that Italian tradition where the act of loving is eating, you’re around a table.  She does make a phenomenal potato omelet and it is my favorite.  But it’s just an excuse to spend time with her and catch up and to get her to slow down because she’s out every night! She’s doing events and she’s recruiting for her Mentoring program.  I worry about her because she’s not as young as she used to be. 

William O’Shaughnessy:

How old is Matilda Raffa Cuomo?

Governor Cuomo:

I cannot tell you. She is 39 years old.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor, there’s so much to cover.  We appreciate the few moments while we’re in your care and keeping – or rather you’re in ours!  These are not alone challenging times, these are awful, cruel, mean times.  First of all, you won the Primary by a hell of a lot more than people thought you were going to do.  How did the Primary set with you?  It was pretty nasty.

Governor Cuomo:

Well, first of all, these are ugly, ugly nasty times.  People are anxious. They are fearful.  It can bring out the worst of human nature and I’m afraid it has.  I’m afraid the actions of the Federal government actually have made it worse.  I think the President incites people.  I think the President plays on people’s fears and uses it politically.  I think that’s very unfortunate.  The Primary, and when I talk to you, Bill, I think of my Father and the conversations that you guys had, but during my Father’s time there was always an activist-left Agenda for the Democratic Party.

There used to be a group called the NDC – New Democratic Coalition.  They used to harass my Father because he wasn’t liberal enough, believe it or not.  Most people would say he was a great liberal.  Many people would say he was too liberal.  But there was a Left to my Father who complained that he was not left enough.  He would say they were “Professional Liberals” or Professional Political People.  Meaning that they have a valid point of view … but it’s a professional point of view as opposed to a populist point of view. 

I think that’s actually exasperated now – and if I could just take another second on it …  you have a group of political people who are engaged on a daily basis for one reason or another.  They’re running an organization or they are a political reporter or blogger.  And the communication and intensity among them is much higher.  There’s Twitter … there’s Instagram … and the energy they generate amongst themselves is much higher than it has been in the past and some of them then believe that is Reality.  It’s not reality.  That’s their own political reality. 

Reality is what people live day to day who aren’t reading the blogs because they have jobs and they are trying to make ends meet.  And when it came to the Primary, this State is the most progressive state in the United States of America!  Not because a blogger opines.  But because people know it.  People know that we passed ‘Marriage Equality.”  It was a very big deal.  They know that I passed the “Gun Safety Law” … they lived it.  They heard it.  They saw the controversy.  They know that I raised the Minimum Wage to the highest in the country because 2.3 million people got a raise.  That’s how they know. They see it in their paychecks.  They know that we have the best free college tuition for middle class families in the country because they are looking at it for their child.  So I understand the academic attack … but you’re not going to tell the people in this State that I’m not a progressive.  They know differently.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor, I don’t want to label you, sir.  But are you a centrist?  Or a progressive … who the hell are you? 

Governor Cuomo:

I am a pragmatic progressive.  Whose definition was that, Bill?

William O’Shaughnessy:

That was your Father, of sainted memory. 

Governor Cuomo:

Think about that for a second.  Pragmatic progressive.  Now this is Mario Cuomo, the greatest liberal … the greatest intellectual politician.  Pragmatic Progressive.  I hated the term, by the way.  No one understands what that means.  And he would say – as only he could say:  If they’re not smart enough to know what it means … I don’t care!   Pragmatic Progressive.  It almost sounded like an oxymoron.  But his point was … you can’t be a progressive if you are not Pragmatic.  There is no academic progressive politics.  Progressive politics happens in actuality.  There is no theoretical Progressive politics. 

Either you made my life better or you didn’t.  Either I have more bread on my table or I don’t.  I don’t want to hear your theory and your intellectual exercise and your academic political analysis.  I want progress in my life because I need it because I’m poor.  I’m a working family … I’m disabled.  Because I’m a victim of discrimination.  So I need progress.  So his point was Progressive needs a modifier.  And the modifier is the words Pragmatic.  Not because it is an oxymoron or inconsistent.  But it is a modifier.  It is the practical Progress.  It is the actuality and the concrete accomplishment of the progressive theory.  That was his point. 

And when you are an executive, you realize very quickly – as opposed to a legislative branch or an academic – to make actual change.  That is much harder. That involves compromise.  It involves nuance.  It involves fashioning a specific solution to a problem.  It is not as easy as just opining or pontificating about absolute idealism.  The pragmatic takes you to a different place.  We now have to get it done.  That means I have to get a piece of legislation passed.  That means I have to talk to Republicans.  That means I have to talk to conservative Democrats.  That means we’re going to have to shift a little bit from the ideal because we live in the real … and that is the pragmatic part. 

He would voice this in the on-going debate he had at that time with the people at the time who were to his left and he would say Look … it’s very easy to be a purist ideologically if you don’t have to get anything done, right?  If all it is about writing a paper on it or giving a speech on it, then it’s easy to advocate for the perfect.  But if you have to get something done as a executive or because you believe people actually need help, and because you actually want to improve the situation, that then introduces the element of pragmatism.  So he was a Pragmatic Progressive.  And that’s what I would call myself.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor, first of all, the clock is ticking.  The Democrats, your party, they’ve got to put somebody against President Trump.  I risk our friendship of many, many years.  Is it possible to like Donald Trump – President Trump – and Governor Cuomo?

Governor Cuomo:

Anything is possible!  Can you like both theories … both philosophies?  No.  My philosophy, my theory of government is diametrically opposed.

William O’Shaughnessy:

How so?

Governor Cuomo:

This President delights in division.  He thrives in division.  It’s not just that he thrives in competition … or he thrives in confrontation.  He thrives in division.  He looks to energize people through anger, I believe.  I try to do the opposite.  I try to appeal to people’s better angels.  Now, it’s much easier to appeal to fear as opposed to love. 

Hate is, in many ways, easier to generate than love is to generate. And when people are anxious to begin with, as they are now – they are economically anxious, etc. – it’s easier to give them a target for that anxiety and to vent for that anxiety. And to say it’s them over there.  They are the problem.  The different people are the problem.  You know the different people … people who pray to a different God.  The people with a different sexual orientation.  The people with different skin color.   The people who speak a different language.  There’s the target!  And I believe that’s the course that the President follows. 

Now, Governor of New York, 19 million people from all over the globe, you start to divide us … that unleashes a cancer in the body politic because what you feel everyday in New York is … we are all about differences.  You start to demonize differences … that is incendiary and that is spontaneous combustion where you would make the situation intolerable.  Now is it harder to motivate people by the positive?  Yes.  Is it harder to explain to people that creating a situation where we all do well enures to your personal benefit ultimately. That the concept of community is not just self-lessness but also selfishness.  That you can benefit when others benefit?  Yes. 

That’s a much harder case to make.  Especially when people are angry. 

But that is the case that I preach.  And the President does the opposite.  We had a situation over this past weekend, Bill, for all your listeners who haven’t been able to detect … You are a Republican the last time I checked!  The Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City invites in a group called the Proud Boys … who are the Proud Boys?  They are a hate group.  They are white nationalists.  They are White Supremacists. 

William O’Shaughnessy:

They call themselves Western Chauvinists!

Governor Cuomo:

Western Chauvinists!  What a label!  They have a long history of hateful speech.  They advocate violence.  Metropolitan Republican Club brings them in.  They offer no real explanation.  They said Free Speech … we believe in Free Speech.  So I guess the Republican Party will invite the Ku Klux Klan next week in their continuing series of “Free Speech” scenarios. It’s hateful.  It’s demeaning to who we are in New York.  It’s demeaning to a productive political dialogue.  They invited them.  There was then vandalism and should be prosecuted.  And then there was violence afterwards.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Didn’t you have a message as a “Queens guy” for this group?

Governor Cuomo:

Well, I said that they are a bunch of thugs! 

William O’Shaughnessy:

That’s pretty clear …

Governor Cuomo:

That was as far as I will allow my Queens roots to take me because I try to maintain basic protocol now as Governor of the State of New York.  But these are just thugs.  I also called them that which was also reminiscent of my Queens roots.  But that’s who they are.  It’s incendiary and it is disgusting.  And I believe it was tactical …  I believe to fire up the Republican base for the mid-term elections in November which are very, very important for the Republican Party.  They use the flames of bigotry and racism and sexism to fire up their base.  I believe that’s what they’re doing.  I believe the Metropolitan Republican Club mirrored what President Trump was saying nationally about the importance of the mid-terms and getting out the vote. And it’s a shame because I remember the Republican Party. Nelson Rockefeller, Senator Javits, Warren Anderson … you could have principled political differences.  But the Republican Party was a party of honor and values.  And what we’re seeing now, Bill, this is a different Republican Party.  This is the Republican Party of a brand of extremist conservatives that we haven’t seen before.

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor, you said that you hold the president responsible.  Do you really mean that?

Governor Cuomo:

I believe the national Republican strategy is to fire up the base.  And the President was saying that the Democrats are bad people and that they’re a mob and they create chaos.  The President was going on this weekend about his take on the Civil War and Robert E. Lee.  The President said after Charlottesville when you had White Supremacists rallying and protestors on the other side and Klu Klux Klan rallying … he said there are good people on both sides.  That, Bill, was – to me – the single most damning statement he’s made.  Because there are no good White Supremacists!  And you should never suggest that to the American people. 

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor … first of all.  I am almost at a loss for words as I listen to you today.  You are so profound dealing with the great issues. Today I’m listening … and you really are your Father’s Son.  I’ve got to ask, as you prepare to move forward … people are starting to talk about you … I’ll lay it right on the table … for president of the United States.  You’re starting to get into the national dialogue on this thing.  Are you interested?  Would you do it?

Governor Cuomo:

I’m interested in one thing which is running for governor and being the best governor that I can be.  The National Agenda is in many ways the New York Agenda in a way it’s never been before, Bill.   With their now takeover of the Supreme Court and with their legislative agenda, you’re talking about a woman’s right to choose being overturned with Roe v. Wade … you’re talking about gun safety laws  … you’re talking about basic healthcare for people … you’re talking about Criminal Justice Policy … you’re talking about Public Education.  Those are the core issues for New York State. 

You know in the old days, the Federal Government would do defense policy and we’d have a great debate about Defense Policy.  But the State ran state issues.  Today, many of the state issues are going to be decided by Washington and what they do.  So the confluence of the two agendas has never been stronger.

But I’m running for Governor.  I love what I’m doing.  I believe I’m making a difference. And as long as I’m making a positive difference, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. 

William O’Shaughnessy:

Governor, I hear them knocking on the door so I’ll be very brief and rap this up.  You’ve given us some beautiful and wonderful stuff.  The book on Andrew Cuomo … on Governor Andrew Cuomo … is that he’s respected.  Even your critics “respect.” He’s got “dynamism.”  Nobody knows the levers of government like Governor Cuomo.  He’s the Doer.  He’s the Mechanic.  You are also the son of a man they called “the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation.”  The Boston Globe said that.  I hear that today.  I hear it in your voice.  I hear it in your thoughtful comments.  Why the hell don’t you talk more like this more often?

Governor Cuomo:

You know, Bill … it was a different time when my Father governed.  They don’t give you more than 30 seconds today.  The intelligence … the substance of government, the theory of government, the philosophy of government.  There’s very little appetite for that now.  I don’t want to get myself into too much trouble.  But we had great reporters back then where you could have a two-hour conversation on an issue before they would write a story and they would think about it and research it. 

We’re in an age of blogs and tweets and frankly reporters who don’t have the background or the time to develop a really substantive piece.  My Father was a brilliant communicator.  He was a brilliant intellectual.  But he also had that pragmatic side.  Part of it, I think, is a reaction to what they said about my Father … because they said that about my Father.  But also remember they said, unfairly – but so much of this business is unfair – but he didn’t accomplish enough, right?  The naysayers – the nasty ones – and I won’t mention any names …

William O’Shaughnessy:

The “dumb blonde argument” – he was so articulate …

Governor Cuomo:

Right … he gave a great speech, but he didn’t get anything done.  He was a great talker – that’s right.  He called it the “dumb blonde!”  You can’t say that anymore, by the way. But he did call it the “Dumb Blonde Syndrome.” 

William O’Shaughnessy:

Sir, let me ask you … as you go forward for governor or president or whatever is in your future Andrew Mark Cuomo … do you want to be loved or do you want to be respected?

Because as I hear you today on this rainy, drodsome day, you’re not really showing this inner, wonderful stuff to many people.  Do you want to be loved or respected?

Governor Cuomo:

I want to be loved by the people I respect!

William O’Shaughnessy:

I’m going to give you the final word, sir.  We’re very grateful to you.  You are your Father’s son.  Thank you ..

Governor Cuomo:

Thank you. Good to talk to you, my Brother Bill.

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He has also written “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published.  He is currently working on his fifth book RADIOactive for Fordham University Press, another anthology with interviews, commentaries, speeches and tributes.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com