Four years ago, Hillary Clinton was greeted with a bouquet by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo when she endorsed him at the New York State Democratic Party convention.
But a lot has changed since then and, on Thursday, as she introduced Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, at the same event, Clinton, like her fellow state Democratic leaders, never mentioned his name – even as the possibility of him attempting a political comeback looms over the party’s immediate future.
“She is a governor for all of us,” Clinton said of Hochul, who ascended to the governorship last August after Cuomo resigned over a series of sexual harassment allegations and a damaging report from the state attorney general’s office. “And by the way, isn’t it about time that the state that gave birth to the women’s suffrage movement, the state that has always been at the forefront of progress and reform, isn’t it about time we elected a woman as our governor?”
As the convention in midtown Manhattan voted to endorse Hochul shortly before Clinton spoke, news began to spread that a New York judge had ruled that former President Donald Trump, and his children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., must sit for depositions in the state attorney general’s civil investigation of their business practices. The family had been pushing back on subpoenas from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who was cheered at the convention despite repeated attacks on her by Cuomo allies, who have for months accused her of running a biased investigation into the harassment accusations that ultimately led to his downfall.
In 2018, Clinton, at the state party convention, showered praise on Cuomo, who was facing a primary challenge at the time from Cynthia Nixon, while never mentioning Trump by name.
This time around, the script was flipped. Cuomo’s name and the circumstances that led to Hochul’s ascent were left out of the script. But Trump and his allies were firmly in the former secretary of state’s crosshairs.
After warning Democrats not to get distracted by “the latest culture war nonsense” ahead of the coming midterm elections, Clinton drew a connection between Trump’s legal troubles and Fox News’ coverage of her.
“So now his accountants have fired him and investigations draw closer to him and right on cue, the noise machine gets turned up,” she said. “Fox leads the charge with accusations against me, counting on their audience to fall for it again. And as an aside, they’re getting awfully close to actual malice.”
The invocation of “actual malice,” which is the legal standard required to prove a libel case in court, was a particularly pointed note and a clear warning to Fox News leadership.
Clinton’s speech began with a brief nod to pandemic hardships – “How many of you had to be your children’s teachers, or your grandchildren’s teachers?” she asked – and an expression of disappointment that the 2020 election results didn’t “begin to start healing our divisions.”
But the remarks quickly turned into an onslaught against Republicans, whose actions she at home, she said, were abetting autocrats abroad.
“Republicans are defending coup plotters, they’re curbing voting rights at precisely the moment when democracy needs champions, when we should be standing together against autocracies like Russia and China,” Clinton said.
She added, “January 6 last year was a gift to them, because they know something we need to remember: America is only as strong as our unity and our democracy allows us to be.”