Andrew Cuomo, Marc Molinaro

Credits: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY NETWORK and Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

Cuomo, Molinaro Launch Raging Debate Over Whether To Debate

October 19, 2018 - 2:18 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he would be willing to debate Republican challenger Marc Molinaro on WCBS Newsradio 880, but Molinaro was not pleased with the terms Cuomo proposed at all.

In an interview with Steve Scott and Wayne Cabot Friday morning, the governor appeared to provide an opening by agreeing to phone into WCBS Newsradio 880 at 8 a.m. Saturday for an hour-long conversation that would have included his opponent, Marc Molinaro.

"I am here. If you want to call me tomorrow, I will be here. If you want to do it with Mr. Molinaro, I will be here. If you want to moderate a discussion, I will be here. But just let me know because it's my daughter's parents' weekend at college. So you want to do it same time, same place? I'm here," Cuomo said. 

But the governor insists there must be a moderator to "keep the conversation relatively substantive."

"In this crazy political environment... they want to debate the idea of debates, they don't want to actually debate," Cuomo said. "It's all partisan politics. They want to debate the idea of debates. It's an issue – he has nothing else to say my opponent. He is an extreme conservative. You hear him every day -- he has not put forth a substantive idea, all he has said is he's against women's rights, he invited a hate group to New York to speak last week that created violence on the streets, there is no substance from him. It's all ad hominem attacks, it's all nasty and it's all this ultra-conservative diatribe."

Molinaro said no to Cuomo’s proposal, calling it a "staged fraud" and insisted that a last-minute debate with no television cameras and only in New York City is not fair to the voters.

An hour later, when WCBS 880 extended the invitation to Molinaro, he rejected the idea of a phone-in conversation with the governor on WCBS 880 Saturday. The Dutchess County Executive says he wanted an in-person debate with television cameras present that could garantee a statewide audience.

"Give me a break, there are 20 million people who live in the state of New York, they deserve a debate that actual human beings beyond -- with all due respect -- those that listen to the station have an opportunity to hear two candidates," the Dutchess County Executive said. "On what planet does the incumbent governor get to dictate that voters come crawling to him at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning with no notice? Have you ever heard of a presidential debate scheduled 12 hours before the debate? People have lives tomorrow and it isn't fair to anybody in the state of New York that they get just on opportunity."

Molinaro said he agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cuomo but believes it should happen on a weekday with TV cameras present.

"I will come on your show, he will come on your show but let's do it at a time where voters can hear it, where people have notice, where they understand that they're going to listen to their radios," Molinaro added. "You cannot expect that voters should accept that two people debate with respect 8 o'clock on a Saturday no notice, no TV, no acknowledgement. That's not a debate, it's a staged fraud on the taxpayers of New York."

Molinaro went on to say he would only agree to a debate on a weekday, and he wanted WCBS-TV, CBS2 involved. He specifically called for the involvement of CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer.

“Get WCBS-TV, get CBS television, get Marcia Kramer right there, and let’s promote it. You cannot expect that voters want two people to debate 8 a.m. on a Saturday with no notice… That’s not a debate, it’s a staged fraud on the taxpayers of New York.”

In a since-deleted tweet, Molinaro also compared Cuomo to the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz,” asking what Cuomo was afraid of.

Molinaro then issued a tweet calling for a one-hour weekday debate with Cuomo that would be on both WCBS 880 and CBS2, adding, “Be there.”

A representative of the Cuomo campaign tweeted that Molinaro "needs to stop with the excuses." The tweet added, "Molinaro would rather talk about debating instead of actually doing one."

A Cuomo representative also replied in a statement:

“Mr. Molinaro has refused the WCBS invitation on the theory that listeners need time to schedule listening to the debate. It is an absurd excuse… Welcome to 2018 and new technology – listeners now download and engage at their convenience. This situation vindicates what the governor has said all along, which is Mr. Molinaro only wants to 'debate the debate.'"

A Molinaro representative repeatedly told CBS2 that he wants a weekday debate on radio and TV, and is concerned that Jewish voters who observe the Sabbath will be shut out, CBS2 reported.