What to Know
- The Republican candidate said there is nothing offensive about his planned event
- It was met with outrage in Harlem
- The candidate's opponent said he was stunned
A candidate for New York State Senate has sparked a firestorm in Harlem after telling NBC 4 New York's I-Team he was planning to hand out “Kool Aid, KFC and watermelons” at a campaign event in the primarily black community.
Jon Girodes, the Republican candidate for New York’s 30th District in the November election, used the racially stereotypical food reference in an email to the I-Team during an exchange about a disputed real estate deal.
“Ps I'm hosting an event in Harlem which will be in front of the state building in a few weeks. We will [donate] Kool Aid, KFC and watermelons to the public on 125th street in Harlem. Please join us to help the community,” he wrote.
Girodes, who is making his second run for the 30th District senate seat and headlined his campaign website with an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said there was nothing offensive about his planned event.
“What I think is anyone who gives free food to people is doing them a favor,” Girodes told the I-Team. “Get a bunch of people who say it’s offensive and let me go into their neighborhood and give it out for free and see if they take it.”
While Girodes offered no further details of his planned event, it was met with outrage in Harlem.
“It’s racist. Whoever he is, I think he should go back in whatever hole he crawled in and have a great life,” Tyrone Nero said in an interview on 125th Street.
“It’s more than an insult and anybody with any sense would see that’s pathetically racist and insulting,” added community member Scott Randolph.
Near Girodes’ headquarters on 153rd Street, there was more disbelief.
“That is so stereotypical,” said passerby Jose Paulimo. “It is very offensive.”
Democratic New York State Sen. Bill Perkins, Girodes’ opponent in the November election, was also stunned by the email.
“I think it’s important to out [Girodes’ remarks] not just to denounce him but to set a tone in this neighborhood and in this city that this type of offense does not go unchallenged,” said Perkins.
Amid the investigation into Girodes’ comments, the I-Team received a second complaint about a real estate deal involving Girodes.
Nancy Bandiera said she recently gave the politician a refundable $750 deposit to rent his luxury apartment on 42nd Street. But when she backed out of the deal, he kept her money.
“I’ve lost the money, and there is no way to contact him anymore,” Bandiera said, showing the I-Team a long text-message conversation with Girodes in which she tried to get her money back. “He is a liar. He’s so disgusting.”
Girodes denied he has taken money from Bandiera or anyone else in apartment rental deals and called himself a victim.
“I was not involved in any scam. I am involved in it as of the people that are trying to scam me,” he said. “I’m the biggest victim ever.”
Girodes, who ran unopposed in the recent primary and only garnered 4 percent of the vote in the 2014 race, is a Republican outsider. He’s not backed by the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee or the party establishment in New York City.
“We are not supporting him. He’s not a real candidate,” one senior GOP official told the I-Team.
Girodes’ campaign website and social media pages were taken down after the I-Team started its investigation.