Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday was pressed by a reporter about a controversial speech at a Brooklyn mega-church where she urged worshippers to act as “my apostles” and proselytize on behalf of COVID-19 vaccinations.
During a coronavirus briefing in Albany, Hochul was asked to respond to the people who “took offense to your comments” at the Christian Cultural Center in East New York last month.
“I was speaking to an audience that understood that there are ways to convey a message and one is…to meet people where they are,” Hochul said.
“When you are in a church and you’re talking about Scriptures, and talking to people who believe in a higher power — as do I — I used a message that I believe would connect with them.”
Hochul also said she had “no trouble being criticized” before claiming that she’d been trying to convince the churchgoers to “not be my apostles, but apostles for the cause, which simply means that you’re out there promoting something because you truly believe in it.”
On Sept. 26, Hochul attended the 8 a.m. religious service at the Christian Cultural Center and told the congregation, “God did answer our prayers” when vaccines were developed against the coronavirus.
“All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants,” she said, according to a transcript posted on her official website.
“I need you to be my apostles…Jesus taught us to love one another and how do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, ‘Please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live’?”
Critics of the remarks included Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who mocked Hochul as “one of the high priestesses” of “the cult of coronavirus” and “the leader of the New York diocese of the corona cult.”
“Around her neck, she wore not a cross — that’s yesterday’s symbol — but instead a vaccination necklace,” Carlson said on his show the following day.
“That necklace signified to the faithful gathered that Hochul has ascended to the select priesthood of those who have taken full intravenous communion.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani called Hochul’s remarks “one of the most absurd, and I also think one of the more dangerous things I’ve heard a politician say recently.”
“As the governor of the great state of New York, you cannot be getting up during a homily in church and asking people to be your apostles,” he said Thursday during an appearance on “The Joe Pags Show.”
“This is absolutely beyond absurd. But I also think it’s a great microcosm, a great example I would say, of what so many in political office think nowadays.”
Giuliani added: “They really, really look at, I think, some of their constituents and…they have this god-like feeling about themselves.”
Hochul also used the same news conference Tuesday to joke about religious anti-vaxxers undergoing “conversion” to save their jobs.
Hochul said she couldn’t provide the number of hospital and healthcare workers who haven’t met the state’s Sept. 27 deadline because “we don’t have the clearest picture right now.”
She blamed the situation on “a lot of people” who were “holding out” until an expected Oct. 12 decision in a federal lawsuit that seeks to add an exemption for workers whose religious beliefs prevent them from getting vaccinated.
“When that ends, we’ll see the pool of people who will be asked to leave or those who have a conversion, so to speak, and all of a sudden decide it is in the best interest of themselves to get a vaccination,” she said.
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