GOP District Leader Vilified for Ethnic Slur Against Patel

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A Yorktown Republican district leader and organizer of the town’s San Gennaro Feast was vilified last week for racial slurs he admitted making against Councilman Vishnu Patel during a GOP victory celebration on Election Night.

Tom Pomposello

Tom Pomposello, 55, a longtime Mohegan Lake resident, was caught on video uttering a hateful ethnic remark against Patel, an Indian American, who lost his bid for a fourth four-year term on the Town Board on Nov. 2.

During an interview Monday, Pomposello said he was mumbling to himself when his disparaging comments were captured and deeply regrets the pain it has caused.

“It was a lack of judgement. I’m embarrassed for myself, my family, my town. It’s the stupidest thing I have ever said in my life,” he said. “I’m in a bad way with this. I know I’m a little rough around the edges, but there’s no excuse for what I did. Vishnu has done a lot of great things for this town.”

Pomposello said he reached out to Patel to apologize. Patel acknowledged receiving a message from Pomposello but said he had no reason to speak to him.

“It is not surprising that one individual at a Republican gathering should shout out a vile obscene remark about my nationality. Donald Trump’s behavior as President gave permission for the worst elements in the Republican Party to say and do things openly that they would never have dared to in the past,” said Patel, who noted he has been targeted with racial attacks at times since he was first elected in 2009.

Councilman Vishnu Patel

“What hurts me deeply about that video is that leaders of the Yorktown Republicans seem to be cheering those unspeakable words with nobody speaking against them. I nonetheless remain hopeful that a new generation of Yorktown Republicans will appeal to the best instincts of people and not the worst,” he added.

Yorktown Republican Committee Chairman Kevin Byrnes strongly condemned Pomposello’s remarks and asked for Pomposello to resign as a district leader, which he did.

“The Yorktown Republican Town Committee condemns these comments in the strongest possible terms. I apologize that such an offensive video was on our Facebook page for five days, but I can assure that had I known about the comments, the video would never have been posted,” Byrnes stated. “When I first watched and listened to the video, I was focused on what the candidates were saying, not on the background conversations, and I simply did not hear the slurs. I can also assure that if I heard those comments being made on Election Night, I would have taken immediate steps to correct the situation.”

“On behalf of the Yorktown Republican Town Committee, I would again like to offer an apology to Councilman Patel and anyone else who was unfortunate enough to view this video and hear the despicable comments,” Byrnes added. “Comments like these are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the Yorktown Republican Town Committee.”

Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater, who was hoisted on the shoulders of Pomposello and others when he was first elected in 2019, applauded the response of GOP leaders.

“Racism and hatred have no place in the Yorktown community or in the Republican Party. Upon receiving the video I spoke to Councilman Patel directly to express my disgust with what had transpired. Having grown up here in Yorktown, I ran track with Councilman Patel’s daughter and graduated Yorktown High School with his son. I consider Councilman Patel a personal friend, valued colleague and an incredible public servant,” Slater stated.

“While we cannot take back the words that were said, we can be sure to send a clear message that racism will not be tolerated, and people will be held accountable for their actions. We need to combat racism and hatred together as a community and the town should not partner with anyone who fails to uphold these values,” he added.

Councilman Ed Lachterman reflected on the incident and how best to deal with it.

“Looking at this situation and not really having a complete understanding of my feelings, I spoke with one of my Rabbis and three friends that are also community leaders from our not-for-profit community groups. I was very general about the situation, basing the conversation on my confusion over the correct reaction. All three had a common theme. To err is human but to forgive is divine,” Lachterman said in part. “One of the leaders even went as far as to say that this slamming of the door on people that make mistakes with no path to redemption, is a major cause of suicide in our society.”

“That brings us to this crossroad in our town. It is easier to just jump on the bandwagon and metaphorically stone Tom Pomposello. But I ask myself and the rest of you if that is the right road to take here?” he continued. “Will this heal our community or just fuel the fire” How do we teach lessons to both the offenders and the offended? That is the road that I am searching my soul for.”

On Nov. 10, the Yorktown Town Board penned a letter to Pomposello, asking him to end any future involvement with the San Gennaro Feast.

“Your conduct has become a stain on our community. The Yorktown Town Board strongly believes individual accountability is a critical component to combatting racism, hate and bigotry. Your actions do not reflect the values of our community and are counter to what we as the governing body of Yorktown strive to achieve which is a community of acceptance,” the board wrote.

The Westchester Board of Legislators also weighed in on Pomposello’s conduct.

“That an accomplished and selfless public servant like Councilman Patel — a three-term councilman, a former IBM scientist, a father of two West Point graduates — can be the object of such hatred, sadly illuminates the pervasiveness and dehumanizing power of race hatred,” the board stated. “For those who hate on the basis of race, or gender, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, there’s nothing a person can be or do that humanizes them to the hater. “It is not enough to tolerate silently racism in our midst, nor to act against it only when it becomes a public relations problem, nor merely to apologize for uttering aloud what is in our hearts after the destructive work of one’s words is done. We must actively confront hatred wherever and whenever we encounter it, in the moment, until it is eradicated from the heart of our nation, and before it grows into something even more destructive than words.”

Pomposello met with Yorktown Democratic Committee co-chairs Marni Rabin-Marron and Mark Lieberman on Nov. 11.
Lieberman stated Pomposello was apologetic and regretted his behavior, adding Rabin-Marron and himself maintained their position that this behavior was racist and inexcusable and recommended several anti-racism resources.

Pomposello said he planned to follow-up on the suggestions made during that meeting and do some soul-searching.
“I have a big heart. I’m doing what I have to do,” he said. “This community is my life and my family’s life.”

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