Harrison councilwoman stands by controversial tweet comparing Trump's rise to Nazi Germany
A Harrison councilwoman's Twitter post that compared support for President Donald Trump to the rise of Nazi Germany has received such heated criticism that she has filed a police report about a perceived threat.
Democrat Lauren Leader, in her first term on the town board, blasted Trump on social media last month for his offensive rhetoric. Her post has angered many in Harrison, one of the few municipalities in Westchester that still has a strong Republican presence.
She told The Journal News/lohud that she filed a police report against one resident because she feared for her family's safety.
Leader was disturbed by a video of Trump attacking left-leaning members of Congress, people of color, during a September campaign rally in Minnesota. His comments received raucous applause.
She tweeted, "As an American Jew I grew up wondering how people could have supported Nazis and allowed 6 million people to be murdered. They voted for Hitler, remember. I understand it better now. The slow steady descent into normalized hate is right here."
Some residents, like Elisabeth Sacco, argue Leader was comparing Trump voters to Nazis. She demanded an apology from Leader.
"That was my interpretation of it," said Sacco, who plans on reaching out to Leader. "And I was devastated by that."
Leader said during Thursday's town board meeting that at "absolutely no time" did she equate Harrison residents with Nazis. She also said she stands by what she tweeted "100 percent." She said she believed Trump was telling his supporters they were genetically superior to Trump's opponents.
She is the founder and CEO of a non-partisan political organization dedicated to electing women into office. She appears on MSNBC and often criticizes the president there and on social media.
Leader called some of the criticism leveled against her "completely unacceptable." She said opponents have personally attacked her and her two daughters and that one resident's comments made her fear for their safety.
Harrison Police Chief John Vasta declined to confirm Leader's report or to say whether police are investigating.
"I am sorry that people misconstrued my words," Leader said during the meeting.
Two residents spoke out against Leader Thursday night, with one speaker even suggesting the town board remove her from her position. (An elected official cannot be removed unless they are convicted of a felony.)
Catherine Labrusciano said Leader's tweet indicates she has "disgust" for Trump voters in town. She said she believes Leader was comparing Trump's supporters to Nazis.
"What she said was rude and hateful," said Labrusciano, who wants an apology. "...You're a disgrace to this community."
Resident Jeff Michael, a history teacher, said Leader's tweet provided inaccurate information, noting Hitler was never voted into power, but appointed chancellor before seizing power when the president died.
Michael accused Leader of fostering hate rather than dialogue.
Supervisor Ron Belmont, a Republican, defended Leader's freedom of speech and condemned any personal insults lobbed at her or her daughters.
"Please be tolerant of everyone's views," Belmont said. "And let's condemn any and all hate."
Leader said her national views don't affect her local service.
"I don't care who they voted for in 2016 and I don't care who they're voting for in 2020," she said. "I'm here to serve all the people of this town."
David Propper covers New Rochelle and the shore towns. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: dg_props. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up for a digital subscription here.