BY GERARD FLYNN | When it comes to making homophobic remarks, City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera has few peers — outside of maybe, state Senator Ruben Diaz.
To an interviewer in Uganda in early 2014, the pious Democrat representing District 14 in the Bronx spoke in halo terms of the African nation’s homophobic government — “godly people in power,” as he put it — because of their opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
Meanwhile, going farther back than that are Cabrera’s links to the Family Research Council, a conservative group known for spreading “false claims about the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community,” in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which deems it a hate group.
News of Cabrera’s cross-endorsement on May 21 by mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan continues to shock many, including his old compadres like Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
If Donovan is under the “mistaken impression that receiving Cabrera’s endorsement will help his campaign, it won’t,” Roskoff stated, adding, “Any hope Shaun had of getting votes from the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community is now lost.”
That Donovan did not reply, Roskoff said, to a request to rescind the endorsement and apologize to the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community has only angered the community more.
During the Democratic primary race, Donovan — Obama’s crisis manager after Hurricane Sandy — has touted his track record of being the go-to guy during major crises. But the Cabrera endorsement has left many wondering if alienating a powerful block of voters to bolster Donovan’s campaign with Hispanic voters will come back to bite him.
Donovan declined to be interviewed for this article. But his campaign spokesperson Jeremy Edwards wrote that the candidate was “proud to have the endorsement.”
Edwards stressed that “Shaun was the first Cabinet secretary in American history to endorse marriage equality and has a long record of fighting against L.G.B.T.Q.+ discrimination” as President Obama’s Housing secretary.
According to Edwards, Fernando Cabrera is no longer that bigoted, smiley, wily Brylcreem politician, because his views on L.G.B.Q.T.+ have, like those of President Biden and President Obama, “positively evolved,” a word a devout Christian may not have chosen. And not just that, but Cabrera, “currently enjoys the support of L.G.B.T.Q.+ leaders in his community.”
Cabrera’s seismic shift from far-right rhetoric and activism to L.G.B.T.Q.+ love appeared in an op-ed in the February edition of the Bronx Times. The piece assured that Pastor Cabrera — a “dedicated pastor, father, husband and public servant whose values and beliefs are deeply rooted both in faith and love” — would represent all constituents fairly, providing he beats front-runner Vanessa Gibson for the Bronx borough president seat.
On top of his reputation for homophobic remarks, in 2013 as a councilmember, Cabrera reportedly tried to shake down hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier and others for millions of dollars over the 99-year lease for the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, in his district.
In true Bronx-politics machine style, Cabrera met with project representatives behind closed doors and offered his nod for the ice rink, allegedly, in exchange for the developers sending $100,000 a year to a little-known organization, Community Action Unlimited, associated with Cabrera’s church, currently nestled inside Kingsbridge’s first luxury building. His request was refused.
Mayoral contender Andrew Yang has also drawn the ire of the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, with the Stonewall Democratic Club rejecting his recent remarks to the club, pitching for the club’s endorsement, as “pandering and tone deaf.”