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Mayor Lacks 'Heart and Soul of an Italian,' Malliotakis Says in Statue Spat

By Jackson Chen | September 7, 2017 5:59pm
 Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis speaking about the Columbus Circle statue.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis speaking about the Columbus Circle statue.
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DNAinfo/Jackson Chen

COLUMBUS CIRCLE — Republican mayoral contender Nicole Malliotakis demanded Thursday that Mayor Bill de Blasio decide whether to remove or alter the square's statue of Christopher Columbus before Election Day in November — saying "he obviously doesn't have the heart and soul of an Italian."

“It is completely outrageous that the mayor of the city of New York cannot tell the people of this city where he stands on Christopher Columbus and whether the statue should remain or be taken down,” the Staten Island assemblywoman, who supports keeping the monument, told a group of reporters in Columbus Circle Thursday.

The GOP candidate accused de Blasio of dodging questions about the statue during his debate with Democratic challenger Sal Albanese on Wednesday night.

When asked what his personal opinion was on the matter, the mayor refused to answer and instead promoted a holistic look at the city's controversial monuments.

"I understand why so many Italian-Americans feel so deeply about this issue," de Blasio said during the debate, adding he was a proud Italian-American himself. "But I believe the right thing to do is to look at all of these issues together and come up with, as best we can, a common standard."

On Thursday, Malliotakis suggested in a statement that the mayor "should go back to using his birth name of Warren Wilhelm, because he obviously doesn't have the heart and soul of an Italian."

The mayor's campaign communications director, Monica Klein, released a statement directed at Malliotakis, as well as mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, who on Thursday referred to his attorney as his "Jewish lawyer."

“Today, one GOP candidate made a vile comment about the Mayor's heritage and the other made an anti-Semitic remark," said Klein, who included her middle name, Cappetti, in the statement. "This is what Trump-style campaigning looks like in New York City.  We are disappointed, but sadly not surprised.”

The discussion surrounding the Columbus statue began after after a protester was killed during a violent rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia last month stemming from the removal of Confederate monuments.

Following that, a plaque honoring the Confederacy was removed from a church near Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, and the city took down two busts of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson that sat in The Bronx Hall of Fame at Bronx Community College.

When the mayor announced he was creating a commission to review all "symbols of hate" in the city, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito suggested that the review should include the prominent Columbus Circle statue. The mayor is still in the process of creating the commission that would undertake the review, but confirmed that the Columbus statue would be considered.

Malliotakis said the statue should remain, adding that the commission was a waste of time and that the city should prioritize deteriorating transit conditions and improving public education standards.

However, the candidate added that she was open to the idea of a memorial or plaque near the Columbus statue in recognition of the indigenous people that Columbus killed and enslaved.

If the heavily favored de Blasio wins the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, he will face Malliotakis in the Nov. 7 general election.