Mario Cuomo was disappointed, ‘homo’ signs or not

Cuomo. (Law Culture Forum via flickr)
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Discussion of those "Vote for Cuomo not the Homo" signs, which never quite went away after Ed Koch's bitter 1977 mayoral primary against Mario Cuomo and briefly picked up in intensity again after Koch alluded to them in a posthumously published interview, continues, apparently.

Ed Koch never forgave Mario Cuomo for allegedly having those signs plastered in parts of Queens during their contentious 1977 race for mayor. He even took a shot at Cuomo in a posthumous interview, so nobody would mistakenly get the impression that he had let it go. 

This morning on his radio show, Post state editor Fred Dicker, who is working on a biography of Governor Andrew Cuomo, interviewed Neal Barsky, the creator of the documentary Koch

Dicker said there was "no physical evidence" that such signs ever existed, and asked Barsky whether the story about them could be "a canard." (Investigative journalist Wayne Barrett has also said he's never seen physical evidence that the signs existed, or met anyone who has.)

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Barsky, in a tweet after the interview, said, "I'm pretty sure they existed; maybe not as many as some say."

A reader who worked in the Koch administration pointed out this 1977 Village Voice article to me, which says that whether or not the signs existed, there was an effort by at least one person on Cuomo's campaign to dig up dirt about Koch's sex life.

One of the people quoted in the article is Bruce Romanoff, a "security consultant," who says Cuomo's Brooklyn borough coordinator, Thomas Chardavoyne, "asked me to look into it."

"Past and present, the whole thing," Romanoff is quoted as saying. "He said he's heard there was a chance Koch had a few boyfriends."

The story also quotes Michael Dowd, who served as Cuomo's campaign manager for the primary and run-off, who, after leaving the campaign and returning to his law practice, admitted that he had discussed the rumors about Koch's sexuality with a professional investigator. Dowd is quoted saying, "You hear rumors all the time [but] there's one that was so pervasive — that I heard from so many different people — that I began to think it might be true. Am I trying to find out if it is? Yeah."

When the reporter told Mario Cuomo about Dowd's activities, Cuomo called them "stupid" and "childish," and said, "Listen, politicians are the most scrutinized people in the world. We are so carefully surveyed and analyzed that nothing — nothing — gets away unnoticed. I just don't believe there's anything there. The man's a congressman for 14 years, some of it when the FBI was doing things it shouldn't have been doing, and I'm telling there there can't be anything there.

"And I'm not being saccharine either. I want to beat Ed Koch. But not for any reason like that. And I hope, I hope [that] Mike [Dowd] made it absolutely clear to you that during the primary I said I didn't want it explored. And I don't want it explored, especially at the last minute. Not only does it hurt this campaign and make me vulnerable, even asking questions like that about someone can injure his reputation. What if you hurt this fellow and he wins? — which he might. What you've done is you've scarred the reputation of the Mayor of the greatest city in the world."

The reporter, Geoffrey Stokes, then told Mario Cuomo about the activities of Chardavoyne, the Brooklyn coordinator who the Voice described as a "political neophyte," and Romanoff, the security consultant.

Cuomo's response: "Oh Christ ... Holy Mother of God. I'm so … I'm so … disappointed."