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New York Gov. Cuomo On Hanukkah Celebrations Stabbing


We begin tonight with the latest news on an attack on a Hasidic Jewish community outside New York City. Last night in Monsey, N.Y., a man stabbed and wounded five people who'd gathered at their rabbi's home to celebrate Hanukkah. A suspect was later arrested in New York City and was arraigned today. Grafton Thomas has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.

This morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack an act of domestic terrorism. And Governor Cuomo joins me now.

Thanks so much for talking with us.

ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you for having me.

MCCAMMON: Governor, what can you tell us about the victims? How are they doing?

CUOMO: Well, there were five victims. I visited the rabbi this morning who had the attack in his home. Five victims - two were in critical condition. One is still in critical condition with skull fractures. The assailant came in, was wielding a machete that they said looked more like a sword it was so long. Luckily, some of the people who were gathered fought back, threw furniture at the person. He left the house, went next door to a synagogue, tried to get in, but the door was locked, got in his vehicle and left, and they got his license plate.

And in New York, we have license plate readers at most of the main thoroughfares. And he was going across the George Washington Bridge, and it read his plate, and police arrested him.

MCCAMMON: You said you met with the rabbi. How is he doing?

CUOMO: Obviously, very shaken up and afraid - afraid. We've had a number of anti-Semitic incidents in this state. And I think we start by recognizing the problem because you'll never solve a problem you fail to recognize. We have a pattern of hate in this nation that is only getting worse, and hate that is focused on race and color and creed and is demonizing our differences. You see racial attacks against African Americans, against Latinos, attacks against LGBTQ members and anti-Semitism all across this country - synagogue shootings.

And we've had a rash of it in New York, where we have a very large Jewish population. And I call it terrorism, domestic terrorism, because when you try to commit mass murder based on race, color, creed, you try to instill fear, that is terrorism. Terrorists don't have to come over on an airplane. We have domestic terrorists.

And that's what's happening, and we have to address it. And people have to know they're protected, and people have to know that we're taking it seriously. And that's what I want to see New York lead the way in doing. We can't treat these as isolated episodes anymore. They happen every week, and they're not isolated. They connect the dots, and it spells hate.

MCCAMMON: Right. Well, as you mentioned, this attack comes after New York City police increased patrols in three neighborhoods in Brooklyn following several recent violent anti-Semitic incidents there. The FBI has documented a 16-year peak in all types of hate crimes last year. Some of those targeted Jewish people in New York. Why do you think this is happening now?

CUOMO: I think there is an epidemic of hate in this nation. I think it has gone viral. I think we foment hate. I think it's in the political dialogue. I think that hate has become the currency of this nation. We hate, therefore we are. We disagree - we hate. If we have a problem, we hate someone else who is causing the problem. We are scapegoating. We're finger-pointing. We're not addressing problems. We're not collegial. We don't believe in compromise. Everything is demonized.

And we treat them as individual, episodic, random acts. They are not. There is a pattern. And it's frightening. And it has to be called out, and it has to be stopped. And it has to be prosecuted. I want to pass a domestic terrorism law in New York state. It is terrorism, and we treat it as terrorism, and we know what that means in this state - certainly after Sept. 11 - and in this nation, and that's how we treat these acts. We have zero tolerance for discrimination or violence based on discriminatory practices.

MCCAMMON: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor, thank you again for talking with us.

CUOMO: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.