The state Democratic Party pushed back against the claims today made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio on a controversial Muslim community center being built near the site of the World Trade Center.
Both Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, and Lazio, called for an investigation of the funding of the team behind the community center, which includes worship space.
In a statement, state party Chairman Jay Jacobs called the controversy a “ruse.”
“This call for an investigation is a ruse, and Newt Gingrich should refrain from politicizing Ground Zero to help his old friend Rick Lazio,” Jacobs said. “There is nothing to investigate concerning the donors of any funds if there are no funds and there are no donors. No responsible prosecutor would undertake such an investigation. In the nineties, Lazio served loyally as a foot soldier in the Gingrich Congress.”
Lazio, in a letter sent to his Democratic rival, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, called for a debate over the need to investigate the project’s funding. Gingrich, a possible 2012 presidential contender, has also spoken out against the center.
“Newt, the next time you decide to do political dirty work for your old buddy, Rick Lazio, you should try to get your facts straight. As it is, calling for an investigation into the source of funds that don’t exist is irresponsible, divisive, and reminds New Yorkers of the old Newt Gingrich” added Jacobs.
Cuomo, for his part, says the issue is about freedom of religion and the state shouldn’t exclude where houses of worship are built.