The chair of the New York State Democratic Party sparked anger, rebuke, and calls for his resignation Monday after comparing India Walton, winner of the party’s nomination for Buffalo mayor and a black woman, to notorious racist and white supremacist David Duke.
Party chair Jay Jacobs made the remarks during an interview with Spectrum News in which he was asked to explain why he and other top Democrats in the state have refused to endorse or support Walton’s candidacy in the general election after she won a surprise victory over longtime incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in the primary earlier this year.
“Let’s take a scenario, very different, where David Duke — you remember him, the grand wizard of the KKK — he moves to New York, he becomes a Democrat, he runs for mayor in the city of Rochester, which is a low primary turnout, and he wins the Democratic line,” Jacobs said. “I have to endorse David Duke. I don’t think so.”
While Jacobs acknowledged that Walton and Duke were “not in the same category” and later apologized for the comparison, the reaction from more progressive Democrats in New York was swift.
“I fundamentally reject the likening of India Walton, an inspiring Black woman committed to public service, to David Duke, one of the most prolific racists of our time,” tweeted New York Attorney General Tish James. “There can be no place for such rhetoric in New York.”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said it was “insane to equate India Walton, a Black woman, with David Duke, someone who supports the legacy of lynching black people and the rape of Black women,” and called for Jacobs’ ouster.
“This is the malignant narcissism of far too many white men,” said Bowman. “Jay Jacobs needs to resign or be removed.”
While Jay Jacobs was attacking @Indiawaltonbflo, India was on the picket line at Mercy Hospital standing with @CWADistrict1 nurses and hospital workers. That’s the kind of person India is. pic.twitter.com/43JMSpf5Jc
— NY Working Families Party (@NYWFP) October 18, 2021
In a fundraising email to supporters late Monday night, Walton addressed the comments directly. She wrote:
I should not have to defend why I am not in any way comparable to David Duke, a militant white supremacist and anti-Semite; a man who would celebrate my death. It is mind-boggling that any Democratic party leader would see fit to make such an offensive analogy.
Jacobs and many corporate Democrats like him are still refusing to endorse our campaign, despite our primary victory among Democratic voters they are allegedly accountable to. It is clearer than ever that they’d rather uphold the status quo than fight for a bold, progressive vision that works for all Buffalonians.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also weighed in.
“The statement [by Jacobs] was totally unacceptable and the analogy used was outrageous and beyond absurd,” said Schumer.
In response to Schumer’s comment, Walton responded with a simple, “Thank you.”