Longtime New Yorker and Republican donor John Catsimatidis said Sen. Ted Cruz should be ashamed for insulting "New York values" in the Thursday night Republican presidential debate and in interviews.
“I think that whether you’re a Democrat or whether you’re Republican, that every New Yorker was upset about it. Because it was nuts!” the grocery store mogul and Republican donor told MSNBC on Friday afternoon. “A presidential candidate should not try and tear up the country by tearing up section by section.”
Catsimatidis — best known in politics for big donations to conservatives and a failed mayoral bid in 2013 — gave the maximum $5,400 to Cruz this spring (as well as donating thousands to many other 2016 candidates, including Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Lindsey Graham), but said he was upset to hear the remark, which seemed to insinuate that the city was too socially liberal.
“I think he’s trying to say that ‘Hey, you guys are New York: You got too many gays, you got too many transgenders, you got too many this, you got too many that.’ Look, we live in the greatest city in the world, New York, and I think he should be ashamed,” he said, calling the remark a "mistake" but saying he’d considering hearing the senator out more if he apologized.
Cruz responded Friday to calls for his apology, which have also come from rivals Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "I'm happy to apologize. I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state," he told reporters at a campaign rally in South Carolina. He then went on a litany of so-called "apologies" that masqueraded as criticisms aimed at the New York officials.
"I apologize to all of the African-American children who Mayor de Blasio tried to throw out of their charter schools that were providing a lifeline to the America dream," Cruz said.
Catsimatidis told MSNBC of his own New York-based criticism of Cruz. “I know he voted against New York City when it came to Sandy,” he added, criticizing the Texas senator’s vote against a hurricane relief funding bill that would have sent aid to the storm-hit city in 2013. “New Yorkers, hey, are we a little bit liberal? What’s wrong with that? We care about people. We care about all Americans, we try and help all Americans. We don’t say they’re in New Orleans [so] we don’t help them. We don’t say they’re in Seattle, why should we help them?”
Catsimatidis said he thought New York values were about letting all voices be heard and thriving together in the same city.
“I would hope that all New Yorkers allow everybody to speak about what they have to say. I think that Ted Cruz meant that we try to shut out certain people,” he added. “If he displays the type of prejudice he did against New Yorkers, I don’t think he’s fit for the office.”
But not everyone agrees.
Shmuley Boteach, a New Jersey rabbi and former congressional candidate who has been introducing Cruz to New York Jews, told MSNBC he didn't take the Texas senator's "New York values" attack too seriously.
"Personally, I saw what the senator said as being more tongue in cheek," Boteach said, suggesting that perhaps Cruz's comments were partly inspired by a scathing New York Times op-ed. "I think he was poking fun of how New Yorkers are portrayed in film and TV, like in 'Sex and the City' and 'Billionaire.'"
Emma Margolin contributed to this report.