INTO more

Impact
Cuomo Staffers Repeatedly Call Cynthia Nixon ‘Unhinged’ During Debate

Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon faced off yesterday in the first and only debate of the New York Democratic primary. It was a heated match that saw Nixon challenge Cuomo on many of the most controversial aspects of his seven-year tenure as governor, including alleged mismanagement of the New York subway system.

Although the actress-turned-politician proved herself a formidable debate opponent, you’d think from following Cuomo’s campaign on Twitter that she’d lost her mind.

Following a particularly contentious exchange when Nixon informed Cuomo she would “stop interrupting” when he “[stopped] lying,” Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa tweeted that there was “lots of unhinged yelling and interrupting from Nixon.”

She further alleged the underdog exhibited “zero handle on substance.”

Just three minutes later, DeRosa repeated the point for the cheap seats. “Quick observation: Cynthia Nixon appears unhinged,” she claimed.

As first pointed out by BuzzFeed head of breaking news Tom Namako, Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith used the exact same phraseology. After likewise dismissing Nixon as “unhinged,” Smith added she “would’ve expected more from an Emmy- and Tony-winning actress.”

The staffer also alleged Nixon’s behavior during the debate was “angry, rude, and disrespectful.”

The word choice did not go over well on Twitter.

Amy Siskind, an activist and founder of women’s empowerment organization The New Agenda, called the rhetoric “sexist.” Katie Halper, comedian and host of the eponymous radio program on WBAI, said the remarks illustrated how “petty and out of touch [Cuomo’s] campaign is.”

Naz Riahi, founder and creative director of Bitten, called it a “low, sexist blow.”

“When they can’t stand on a progressive track record, [the Cuomo campaign is] forced to take her down by falsely attacking her mental state,” Riahi tweeted.

Following criticism, DeRosa attempted to deflect any suggestion that the remarks were a gendered attack on Nixon by stating that she’s used the exact same expressions in the past to describe men.

“I’ve referred to plenty of men as unhinged, Josefa,” she said in response to journalist Josefa Velazquez. “You should get out more.”

But Twitter users pointed out that DeRosa’s own social media history directly contradicts that assertion. A search through the secretary’s tweets between January 2007 and August 2018 showed not a single instance of her calling anyone “unhinged” — whether male or female.

The fracas was one of several discussions about gendered double standards surrounding the New York gubernatorial debate.

Prior to the face-off, the Nixon campaign attracted national attention when the candidate requested the temperature at Hofstra University be set at 76 degrees. It was just 69 degrees when the candidate arrived. Her team claimed that cold rooms are “notoriously sexist.”

Although polls show that Nixon is trailing by 33 points ahead of the Sept. 13 primary vote, early signs show she may gain some ground following Wednesday.

Polls conducted following the Nixon-Cuomo debate on Twitter indicated that viewers felt the former Sex and the City star won handily. Although the results are highly unscientific and should be read with caution, she prevailed by at least 40 points in nearly every single online survey.

If elected during the November general election, Nixon would be America’s first LGBTQ governor. Meanwhile, Cuomo is widely blamed for New York state’s failure to pass legislation banning conversion therapy and anti-trans workplace bias.

Image via Getty


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.