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Central, northern NY congress members take sides in Trump tweet feuds

Tom Magnarelli
A Trump supporter confronts Dana Balter, right, at the CNY Stand Against Racism protest outside Rep. John Katko's office Tuesday

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said President Donald Trump’s tweets, telling progressive Democratic congresswomen to go back and fix the places they came from, were unequivocally wrong and beneath the office of the presidency. But protesters in Syracuse were unsatisfied by Katko’s remarks. 

Holding signs that say, ‘CNY stands against racism,’ and, ‘abolish ICE,’ as well as one that portrays Trump as Hitler, protesters like Tom Keck said Trump has set out to make white supremacy the defining issue of his presidency and they said Katko has not done enough to step up to him.

“What kind of person stands by silently, when somebody directs racist insults against his own colleagues?” Keck asked.

Katko voted against a House resolution condemning the president’s tweets. In a statement, he called it a meaningless vote to score political points. Dana Balter, who is seeking the Democratic nomination a second time to challenge Katko, said Katko’s response was woefully inadequate.

“There is nothing more important in a country that is based in freedom for everybody, to stand up and speak out against racism and xenophobia, which are things that inhibit freedom for everybody,” Balter said.

In his statement, Katko said there was no resolution brought to the House floor to condemn a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that some say was anti-Semitic, although there have been two House votes denouncing anti-Semitism broadly.

Balter agrees that tweet, in which Omar said, "It's all about the Benjamins," in reference to Israeli lobbying, was wrong.

Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) and North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) joined Katko, who are all Republicans, in voting against the recent House resolution condemning Trump. Reed said Trump's tweet was inappropriate, but he believes the resolution furthers the partisan atmosphere in Washington.

“The better course is for all sides to stand down," Reed said. "Let’s leave that partisan rhetoric on both sides to the sidelines.”

The resolution passed anyway, and with the support of Mohawk Valley Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica).

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.