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Outrage erupts over New York Gov. Hochul’s controversial comments on Black people during California speech

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul ended up in hot water after making a controversial comment about Black people during her visit to California earlier this week. On Monday, she attended the Milken Institute Global Conference in California to promote Empire AI, a $400 million initiative to establish an artificial intelligence computing hub in upstate New York. But instead, she found herself in a tricky spot after making a statement she soon wished she hadn’t.

Sensitive period

Hochul’s comment comes at a very sensitive time amid the presidential campaign. Even though the state of New York is known as a Democratic bastion where Democrats easily win for decades, Hochul’s comment might be a perfect opportunity for presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to try and score points among Black voters at a time when President Joe Biden is losing support in this key voting group. And it’s pretty safe to say that Trump will seize the opportunity to attack both Biden and Hochul.

The comments

Kathy Hochul quickly walked back comments she made on Monday after a torrent of criticism for her assertion that Black children in the Bronx didn’t know the word “computer.” “Right now, we have, you know, young Black kids growing up in the Bronx who don’t even know what the word ‘computer’ is,” she said. For good measure, she added: “They don’t know, they don’t know these things.”

The reactions

Reactions were swift and intense. Amanda Septimo, a New York state assembly member representing the South Bronx, denounced Hochul’s remarks as “harmful, deeply misinformed, and genuinely appalling.”

“Governor Hochul’s remarks regarding young black children in The Bronx were harmful, deeply misinformed, and genuinely appalling. The Bronx I know and love is full of children who are smart, curious, and eager for opportunities to learn and grow,” Septimo said in a statement shared on X. “As leaders in New York we have a responsibility to uplift all children and help them reach their greatest potential. Repeating harmful stereotypes about one of our most underserved communities, while failing to acknowledge the state’s consistent institutional neglect, only perpetuates systems of abuse,” she added.

“Deeply disturbed by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent remarks and the underlying perception that she has of Black & brown children from the BX. Our children are bright, brilliant, extremely capable, and more than deserving of any opportunities that are extended to other kids,” fellow assembly member and Bronxite Karines Reyes commented.

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul is under fire after her assertion that Black children in the Bronx didn't know the word "computer."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and President Donald Trump, Courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul X account

Supporting the comments

Few public figures came forward to back the governor. Among them was Carl Heastie, Speaker of the State Assembly, who described her comments as “inartful and hurtful” but believed they did not represent “where her heart is.” Civil rights leader Al Sharpton also extended some grace, saying she aimed to make a “good point,” noting that “many in our community are robbed of using social media because of racial exclusion from access.”

“While the governor’s words were inartful and hurtful, I don’t believe that is where her heart is. I firmly believe she wants to see all of our students excel,” said New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat who represents the Bronx in the Legislature, came to Hochul’s defense as her remarks began to gain traction online.

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The apology

Gov. Hochul and her team realized the mistake and issued a public apology regarding the controversial comments.

“I misspoke and I regret it,” Hochul said. “Of course, Black children in the Bronx know what computers are — the problem is that they too often lack access to the technology needed to get on track to high-paying jobs in emerging industries like AI,” Hochul added in the statement. “That’s why I’ve been focused on increasing economic opportunity since Day One of my Administration, and will continue that fight to ensure every New Yorker has a shot at a good-paying job.”

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