Republican Gubernatorial candidate and former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino says that he was taken by surprise by allegations that he knew about a hate sign displayed during a political event.

Astorino told WIBX First News in the Morning that the controversy erupted when he was making a speech in front of dozens of people who had gathered in front of the New York City office of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat who supports legislation mandating COVID-19 vaccines for children.

A woman at the event displayed a sign representing a swastika made from vaccination needles.  When criticized that someone at his event promoted Nazism, Astorino said there was no way he could have seen the sign. He said, had he seen it he would have had it removed.

Astorino added that the woman was displaying a different sign that wasn't offensive before his speech, but then flipped it over after he started. He also said that even though the sign was clearly distasteful and inappropriate, the woman's intent was to compare the forcing of New Yorkers to vaccinate their children to what was done to Jews in Nazi Germany. Astorino said that the woman did not intend the sign to be disrespectful to Jewish people.

"It is ridiculous," he said. Astorino left the meeting and didn't realize until after the rally when the photos went viral, that a reporter had written the story in a way that made it seem as if his rally was antisemitic.

The rally was protesting vaccine mandates among children in New York, who he claims are unlikely to be harmed by the virus. Astorino also said the vaccine is not proven to prevent COVID-19, but to prevent people from being hospitalized. He also said that children do not tend to spread the virus. Currently, New York State mandates 9 other vaccines for children in order for them to attend public schools.

Dr. Kent Hall, Chief Physician Executive from the Mohawk Valley Health Service, says those statements are not true. He said that the vaccine does, in fact, reduce the risk of contagion, but it does not prevent it completely. He also said that children do indeed spread the virus, often times to parents and grandparents who can be more likely to become seriously ill.

"If you are vaccinated you are less likely to get the virus," said Hall. In regards to children spreading COVID, he said "we know that there have been numbers of cases where kids have gotten it, brought it home, and made one of their family members sick...that has been documented...almost since the beginning of this."

This is Astorino's second run for New York Governor. Currently, Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican, has also announced his campaign for New York's top spot.

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