ALBANY, N.Y. – Republican Gov. George Pataki (search) scolded the state's GOP chairman Tuesday for seeking to link the Democratic Party with a civil rights attorney convicted of aiding terrorists.
GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik (search) touched off a firestorm Monday by saying that "the Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart (search) and Howard Dean."
Stewart is a New York City lawyer convicted last week of helping terrorists by smuggling messages from one of her imprisoned clients, a radical Egyptian sheik, to his terrorist disciples on the outside. Dean is the newly elected Democratic National chairman; Boxer is a liberal senator from California.
"The Democratic Party doesn't have anything to do with Lynne Stewart," Pataki said. "Obviously, she was found guilty of a heinous criminal act and that is not something within the realm of appropriate political discourse in New York state."
The comments drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats, some of whom demanded that Minarik apologize or be removed from the post.
"Don't accuse the 5.5 million Democrats in this state of treason if you hope to win our votes," Howard Wolfson, a Democratic consultant and top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, told the New York Post. "And, if you make that mistake again, you best be prepared to make it to my face, because we love this country much too much to allow you to ever question our patriotism."
Before Pataki and Democrats spoke out, Minarik issued a statement indicating he had no intention of backing away from what he had said and calling Democratic complaints "just the latest 'Dean scream.'"
"The Democrats would be wise to take action on members like Lynne Stewart, rather than attacking me," Minarik said in his statement earlier Tuesday. "Maybe then the Democratic Party can start to regain some credibility with the American people."
Minarik was elected in November with Pataki's blessing.