ALBANY – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is firing back at his Republican critics after months of attacks over his mishandling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.
Silver aides are ripping state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and Assembly Republicans as hypocrites more interested in trying to divert attention from their poor record on women’s issues than in protecting sex harassment victims.
“They are not advocates for women,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland said. “Their votes on issues affecting women are shameful, and their current grandstanding is shameless.”
Cox has led the charge against Silver, calling for his resignation as speaker for agreeing to a secret $103,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with two women who accused Lopez, then a Brooklyn state assemblyman, of sexual harassment. Cox says Silver should have followed Assembly rules and referred the matter to the Ethics Committee.
Cox has also called on Gov. Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
But Silver aides argue Cox is the last person who should portray himself a defender of women. They note that Cox’s law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler LLP, boasts on its website that it represents employers against “alleged pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and Equal Pay Act claims.”
“It’s completely hypocritical but not surprising considering his party’s pathetic record when it comes to fighting for women,” Whyland said.
Ed Cox, chairman of New York Republican State Committee, and Assembly Republicans are being attacked by Silver aides. “They are not advocates for women,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland says.
Cox called the attacks from Silver’s office “utterly ridiculous” and a “smokescreen.” He charged that Silver’s decision not to sanction Lopez after the first two women came forward last year directly led to at least two more women being sexually harassed by the one-time Brooklyn political powerhouse.
Meanwhile, as many Assembly Republicans continue to publicly pound Silver for pushing an aggressive woman’s agenda while covering up sexual harassment in his house, Whyland says they are just trying to deflect attention from their longstanding records of voting “no” on bills that would benefit women.
Among them: required sex harassment training for hotel-motel employees, mandatory firearms revocation in domestic violence cases, pay equity and the strengthening of orders of protection.
The Assembly GOP did vote for nine points of Gov. Cuomo’s 10-point woman’s equality agenda at the end of the legislative session. But many Assembly Democrats believe the GOP only supported “watered down” versions of the nine bills to create cover for not voting for the 10th provision to strengthen abortion rights.
Silver, who in recent years has taken heat for some of his investments, has quietly dumped two controversial ones, his latest financial disclosure forms show.
The powerful Manhattan Democrat no longer invests in Walmart, an arch-enemy to his organized labor supporters. The Daily News in 2010 reported Silver’s holdings in the company.
The speaker also has dumped PepsiCo., a stock he held even as Pepsi in 2010 was fighting then-Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to add a new tax on sugary beverages like soda. Silver opposed the measure.