“They used an expression that southern Italians were called — quote unquote, pardon my language, but I am just quoting the Times — ‘nigger wops,’ N-word wops, as a derogatory comment,” he said in a conversation with Alan Chartock on WAMC in Albany, referring to a New York Times article about racism against Italian Americans in the 19th century.
Cuomo’s comments were part of a tangent during an unrelated question. Earlier in the interview, he discussed racism and stereotypes against Italian Americans, after being asked about Columbus Day, which many Italian Americans see as a day of pride. There have been growing calls to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor Native Americans who were killed and whose lands were pillaged by European colonizers in the Americas.
While acknowledging that Native Americans “have been abused” and affirming his support for commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he said the holiday and monuments for the explorer contain “a broader symbolism” for Italian Americans.
For example, he said the Christopher Columbus statue in New York City’s Columbus Circle, which many activists have called to remove, “was put up at a time when the Italian Americans were being abused.”
Andrew Cuomo through the years
Andrew Cuomo through the years
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and girlfriend Sandra Lee look on as Pope Francis tours Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem in New York, September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo waves as he arrives to speak on the fourth and final night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (2nd R) gestures to the crowd as she takes part in the Memorial Day parade with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) in Chappaqua, New York, U.S. May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (L) shakes hands with James Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company following a press conference to announce major transportation initiatives in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 6, 2016. Cuomo promised the "largest investment in upstate New York in history, period" promising a $22 billion investment in bridges and roads as he aims to reverse years of decline in the rustbelt north of New York City. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden appears with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the stage at an event to discuss the economy at the Javitz Convention Center in New York, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a "Raise the Wage" rally in New York May 7, 2015. Governor Cuomo said on Wednesday he would create a so-called Wage Board, a move apparently designed to allow him to raise the minimum wage without the approval of state lawmakers. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (L) and Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega shake hands in Havana April 20, 2015. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met senior Cuban officials in Havana on Monday as the head of a high-powered business delegation looking to take advantage of President Barack Obama's easing of restrictions with the Communist-led island. Cuomo, a Democrat, is the first governor to visit Cuba since a December announcement by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro that they would restore diplomatic relations and work to normalize trade and travel ties after more than a half century of hostility and confrontation. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stands with his mother Matilda and other members of his family as he watches the casket of his late father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, being carried into St. Ignatius Loyola Church for funeral service in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 6, 2015. Mario Cuomo, the three-time governor of New York and a leading voice of the Democratic Party's liberal wing who turned down several invitations to seek the U.S. presidency, died on January 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 82. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS OBITUARY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his partner Sandra Lee depart the wake for slain New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu in the Brooklyn borough of New York January 3, 2015. Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were shot to death on December 20 as they sat in their squad car in Brooklyn. Their killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who killed himself soon after, had said he was seeking to avenge the deaths this summer of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)
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When asked if he believes there is still prejudice against Italian Americans, Cuomo emphatically said “yes” multiple times.