for the record

Meeks denies DSA collaboration in NYC speaker race

New York Post report is ‘100% wrong … not even close,’ House Foreign Affairs chair tells JI

Bebeto Matthews/AP

Congressman Gregory Meeks, D-NY, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at LaGuardia Community College in New York.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) forcefully denied recent reporting from The New York Post that suggested he had courted votes from anti-Israel activists affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America in a behind-the-scenes effort to lock up support for Adrienne Adams in the race for New York City Council speaker.

“The New York Post was 100% wrong in their reporting, not even close,” Meeks said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Tuesday. “There were no negotiations and not even any conversations with anyone from the DSA or anything of that nature. Not one.”

Meeks was responding to a series of stories published last week alleging that he had forged an alliance with incoming council members connected to the DSA — which supports the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement targeting Israel — to elect his preferred candidate over Francisco Moya, who was until recently a leading contender for the speakership.

“Under any circumstances, that wouldn’t be,” Meeks, who chairs the Queens County Democratic Party, told JI. “But the implication of me even meeting with them to cut a deal is false in fact because that never happened.”

The congressman, a vocal supporter of Israel who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has long been at odds with his party’s democratic socialist wing. In 2019, Meeks opposed Tiffany Cabán, one of two newly elected council members endorsed by the DSA, in the heated race for Queens district attorney. The following year, he fended off a primary challenge from DSA member Shaniyat Chowdhury.

Meeks was among a chorus of local elected officials who expressed disapproval when, in August of 2020, the DSA’s New York City chapter distributed a questionnaire asking that City Council candidates pledge not to visit Israel if elected.

The Queens Democrat said it was “hurtful” to read the Post’s coverage, which included on-the-record denunciations from Jewish community leaders in New York. “It seems to me the thing that they were trying to do is to see if they could drive a divide between me and the Jewish community,” Meeks charged. “There is no such divide.”

“I understand this is the political process, I guess, for some, but it didn’t faze me at all,” Meeks added. “I continue to do my job as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee with an understanding that Israel is the biggest ally that the United States has in the Middle East.” 

Until now, Meeks had refrained from commenting publicly on the matter. “I just chose not to talk about it,” he explained, “because I know anyone that could read the article thoroughly would see that it just didn’t make sense.”

But Meeks also seemed eager to correct what he viewed as a separate misimpression — that his back-channeling had been part of an effort to stymie Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who had favored Moya for the speakership.

Far from it, he said. “The person that I was talking to the most was the mayor himself, who had nothing to lose in this scenario,” Meeks told JI, referring to Eric Adams. “We understood each other.”

The two had largely been “focused on” coordinating “with organized labor and other counties across the city,” Meeks said, “so that we could make sure the mayor and his agenda moving forward would be implemented.”

A spokesperson for the mayor-elect did not immediately respond to a request for comment from JI.

The mayor-elect had privately supported Moya, a Queens councilman since 2018, for the high-profile speaker role. But he reversed course when Adrienne Adams, also of Queens, secured the requisite number of votes to claim the title, describing her as “the best choice to lead our City Council” in social media comments late last week.

Adams, who is not related to the mayor-elect, declared victory on Friday. She is poised to become the first Black woman to lead the Council when the 51-member legislative body casts an internal vote in early January.

Meeks, for his part, rejected the implication that his support for Adams had caused tension for the mayor-elect.

“Some tried to make it like the mayor wasn’t successful and this was a defeat,” Meeks said. “That’s not true, because it was all of us,” including labor groups as well as county chairs, who “had an open line to the mayor all the time. He knew that he could not lose in this process.”

“I’m a moderate Democrat — look at my voting record, look at Adrienne’s and look at the mayor’s, and you’ll see they’re similar,” Meeks said. “I think that we are in a prime position to move forward to make the city safer. That’s important. That’s what this is really about, is making the city safer and more prosperous, and that benefits everybody.”

Meeks endorsed former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire in the Democratic mayoral primary last June but described himself as “a friend” of the mayor-elect in conversation with JI. “I believe in his agenda.”

But even as he distanced himself from the DSA, Meeks acknowledged that pro-Israel sentiment may face resistance at the local level as the far left makes inroads in the City Council.

“It’s an issue, just as it’s an issue in Congress to a degree,” he said. “But I feel confident that the Democratic Party is diverse. I feel confident with Eric Adams as the mayor and Adrienne Adams as the speaker.”

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