Several prominent leaders of the Black community in the Hudson Valley are outraged over a political mailer sent out to voters associating criminals and crime with pictures of Black men leading up to the race for New York's 17th Congressional District.
NAACP Mid-Hudson Regional Director Wilbur Aldridge, Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie, and Rockland County Legislator Toney Earl said the material sent out criticizing Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's record on crime is racist and are calling on Lawler to condemn it.
"If you are culturally sensitive then you would certainly recognize that this was very inappropriate," said Wilbur Aldridge, NAACP Mid-Hudson regional director.
Aldridge said the "offensive material" only contributes to the stereotype that people of color, particularly Black men, commit crimes and are the only ones who benefit from the state's bail reform laws.
The mailer was funded and sent out by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that's dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives.
The Congressional Leadership Fund is behind several TV advertisements attacking Hudson Valley Democrats in three of the state's highest-profile races, including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-17), Rep. Pat Ryan (NY-18), and congressional candidate Josh Riley (NY-19).
No one from the organization responded to News 12's request for comment.
Lawler's campaign declined an interview but a spokesperson responded to the accusations with a statement:
"First of all, this isn't our mailer. Secondly, it's incredibly ironic that this false accusation of racism is coming from Sean Patrick Maloney, the man who forced a sitting African-American congressman from his party out of the district. White privilege much?" responded William O'Reilly, a Lawler campaign spokesperson.
A spokesperson for Maloney made it clear his campaign is neither behind the mailer nor the one raising allegations of racism.
"Rep. Maloney’s position on this is crystal clear: hate has no place in our politics and Mike Lawler should be ashamed of himself," said Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for Maloney's campaign.
"I'm sorry that he [Lawler] thinks it's a bigger issue than it should be, but that may speak to his feelings about culture. He may not be culturally sensitive," added Aldridge.
Lawler and Rep. Maloney face off in one of the country's most important House elections next month. The district includes Putnam and Rockland counties and parts of Dutchess and Westchester counties.