Lazio Defends Mosque Scrutiny

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC.

The New York Primaries are just a week away, and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio was a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show.  He spoke with Brian about his plans to clean up Albany, and cautiously commented about the Tea Party support for his primary opponent, Carl Paladino.

A big part of the conversation, though, was about the Park51 mosque and cultural center in Lower Manhattan. Lazio has called for an investigation into the funding sources for the construction of the mosque and cultural center, and he wants the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to do it.  He claims the mosque supporters have been inconsistent in explaining where the seed money is coming from and this inconsistency warrants an inquiry, something he says is within the Attorney General's "civic jurisdiction." He also said it's appropriate to question the location of the project.

For people that pontificate or sermonize about first amendment rights, it's curious to me that those people are trying to label those others, like me, who are raising legitimate questions about the placement of this one particular mosque. There are one hundred mosques in New York City. There are 2,000 mosques in America. There are 50 percent more mosques in America than there were on 9-11. Nobody is raising an issue about that.


Lazio added that his concerns are about funding, not religion. 

There are millions of patriotic peace-loving Muslims, including people who are family members of victims of 9-11.This is not about religion.  And the people that make this about religion, it really makes me angry honestly, because I feel like it's a way to try and shut people up in exercising their first amendment rights to raise questions about legitimate issues like funding sources.


Lazio's primary opponent, Carl Paladino is arguing for zoning restrictions at Ground Zero that would cover the area affected "by the dust cloud," but Lazio says his fight for transparency is the best way to go. The capital campaign to fund the project has not yet begun and Cuomo has refused to pursue an investigation. Lazio spent most of the interview refusing opportunities to dig at Carl Paladino and instead argued against Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo's campaign.

I'm appealing to all New Yorkers regardless of your party.  Nobody, regardless of your political background wants to repeat the last four years when Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and Alan Hevesi and Andrew Cuomo were elected.  That's the team that was elected four years ago.  That's a failed team.


Lazio says he won't debate Paladino before the primaries because he doesn't see the need for same party candidates to combat each other at this point. He says he and Paladino have communicated with voters directly, but Lazio does say he looks forward to debating Cuomo after the primaries.