Actress-turned-onetime gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon got into a “heated” back-and-forth with Rep. Carolyn Maloney at a political club meeting in Manhattan last week over the Democratic congresswoman’s past controversial views on vaccines, the Daily News has learned.
The spat erupted when Maloney sat down for an endorsement interview Thursday night with the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a prominent LGBTQ rights organization whose board Nixon sits on.
Once her turn to ask questions came, Nixon grilled Maloney on her history of echoing dubious theories about vaccines causing autism in children, the “Sex and the City” actress told The News on Wednesday. Nixon said she also condemned Maloney’s sponsorship of “anti-vaxx” legislation in Congress, including a 2006 bill that suggested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a “conflict of interest” in being responsible for both high immunization rates and vaccine safety.
But Nixon, who ran an unsuccessful 2018 campaign for New York governor, said Maloney would not clarify why she used to espouse those views. Instead, the congresswoman got “heated” and insisted she’s “pro-vax,” Nixon said.
“She sidestepped the question so completely that I had to reiterate it twice, hoping she might distance herself from her previous position of linking vaccines to autism and saying things like, ‘The CDC can’t be trusted,’” Nixon said. “She did not, which surprised and disappointed me.”
Bob Liff, a spokesman for Maloney’s reelection campaign, confirmed the back-and-forth with Nixon occurred — but accused the actress of misrepresenting the congresswoman’s record.
“Cynthia Nixon’s question was based on false information and misrepresented Carolyn Maloney’s long support for vaccines and the science behind them,” Liff said. “She did not sponsor ‘eight anti-vaxx bills.’ She sponsored two bills focused on increasing FDA safety standards on vaccines in order to increase public confidence, and address concerns about mercury in some vaccines for kids.”
Liff also noted that Maloney and her children are all vaccinated against COVID-19, and that she has fought in Congress for allocating more money for distributing coronavirus vaccines.
Maloney’s past anti-vaxx views became a flashpoint during her 2018 campaign, when her primary opponent Suraj Patel dug up old video clips of the congresswoman comparing the dangers posed by vaccines to smoking tobacco.
After the videos made the rounds in 2018, Maloney distanced herself from her past remarks and said she does not believe there is a link between vaccinations and autism.
The reemergence of the issue comes just weeks before Maloney is set to face off against Patel and longtime New York Rep. Jerry Nadler in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary for the 12th congressional district.
Maloney represents the 12th, while Nadler sits in the 10th. But due to this year’s chaotic redistricting process, Nadler switched to run in the new 12th, which includes a large section of his old constituency, pitting two of the New York congressional delegation’s longest serving members against each other.
After Thursday’s tense meeting, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club endorsed Nadler in a snub of Maloney.
Allen Roskoff, president of Jim Owles, said in a statement that the club went with Nadler because he “will champion our causes in Congress during this pivotal time.”