Prosecutor Examines New York Republican Bash That Taunted Cuomo

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A social-media taunt during a New York Young Republican Club bash is drawing attention from a prosecutor with the power to enforce pandemic distancing orders.

The club originally intended to have its 108th annual gala in New York on Thursday night, but after media attention changed the location to Jersey City’s Maritime Parc, a restaurant across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Liberty State Park. Photos on social media showed guests flouting masking and distancing rules.

Guest Joel Fischer tweeted a photo of himself with U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, and wrote that New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo could “Come and get me” -- even though Fischer was in New Jersey.

Jake Hudnut, the Jersey City chief prosecutor, responded on Twitter that the party was on his turf. New Jersey has capped most indoor gatherings at 10 people, with 150 the limit for weddings, funerals or memorial services. Indoor dining also is limited, and masking is required when guests aren’t eating and drinking.

“We had under the legal limit in terms of attendance,” club President Gavin Wax said in an email. “Masks were required and the venue was spread out to accommodate covid regulations.”

A group shot posted to social media showed several dozen people without masks.

During a news briefing Friday, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey said of Gaetz and his fellow party-goers: “What a fool. He and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

The event took place a day after the U.S. reported 2,885 Covid-19 deaths, a single-day record. A deluge of new cases are expected starting next week, the result of exposure during Thanksgiving celebrations.

By 11 a.m. Friday, Fischer’s tweet had more than 2,600 likes and 550-plus comments.

Fischer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent by Tweet. Francine Andia Wallace, a Gaetz spokesperson, didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail message. No one immediately responded to a message left on Maritime Parc’s voicemail.

Hudnut didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left at his office.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop on Friday mocked Fischer on Twitter, saying he was talking big “after sneaking across the river to hide in NJ.”

“Nevertheless JC law enforcement will be visiting the Maritime Parc this AM + will follow appropriate steps within laws of NJ,” Fulop wrote.

Wax, in a Dec. 3 tweet, wrote that the club was prepared to file lawsuits “If NY Democrat officials try to shut down our event.” He added: “This is about the bedrock of American society and a battle we are willing to wage against these tyrants starting now and for long after they have left office. They will not interfere with our sacred First Amendment rights.”

New York and New Jersey, hit early and hard by the novel coronavirus, now are confronting a second wave. Cuomo and Murphy, a fellow Democrat, made their states among the earliest to close businesses and adopt social-distancing and other rules to slow the virus’ spread.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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