ALBANY — Leaders of the nation's largest advocacy group for dwarfs and short people contend it is inappropriate for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign to repeatedly label his Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro, as a "Mini Me" of President Donald Trump.
Mark Povinelli, president of Little People of America, said using the label "Mini Me" is offensive because it refers to a person's physical stature, even if the Cuomo campaign insists it is not specifically alluding to Molinaro's height.
Little People counts 8,000 dues-paying members across the nation, Povinelli said.
"We would hope the discourse among politicians refrains from pointing out the physical characteristics of a person, no matter what they are, but especially when it's height-related," said Povinelli, a veteran television actor who lives in California.
"It feels like they are trying to equate what they see his lack of skill at governing with his height," he added. "But there is no diminished skill if you have diminished height."
'SHOULD BE ASHAMED'
Molinaro, the 42-year-old Dutchess County executive, stands 5 feet 8 inches, according to his aides.
Addressing reporters in Albany this week, he complained about the Cuomo camp's penchant for labeling him "Mini Me," noting the term has also been employed by the governor's representatives in their capacity as state officials.
"The fact that he employs government employees to talk that way? They should be ashamed, and they shouldn't be on the payroll," Molinaro said.
Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer argued Molinaro's criticism is unwarranted, contending his policy positions are similar to those espoused by Trump.
A Democratic campaign consultant who has helped Cuomo this year, Hank Sheinkopf, said Molinaro "should chill out and focus on the important issues. It would be better to go from comedy to seriousness and for the Republican candidate to not get so uptight about it."
DIDN'T VOTE FOR TRUMP
The Cuomo camp has said its moniker for Molinaro is based on what it says is his alignment with policies promoted by Trump.
Molinaro, however, has said that claim amounts to "a lie," noting he didn't cast a vote for Trump in 2016 but wrote in the name of then-Rep. Chris Gibson, an upstate Republican who has since retired from Congress.
Mark Grimm, a Republican communications consultant from Albany County, said the repetitious use by the Cuomo camp of the label for Molinaro is reminiscent of Trump's often-employed "Little Marco" barb for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the last presidential primary cycle.
Rubio is 5 feet 9 inches.
The tenor of Cuomo's campaign style was called into question in advance of last week's Democratic primary after mailers issued by the Cuomo-controlled State Democratic Party suggested that his rival, actress Cynthia Nixon, was anti-Semitic.
Cuomo later said he knew nothing about the content of the mailer and agreed it was inappropriate, stating, "The way I ran this campaign, it's been on the issues, it's been positive."
Molinaro said the "Mini Me" attacks are "beneath us."
He said if he was going to return such fire — insisting he will not do so — he would refer to Cuomo as "a big, tall goon."
The average American male height is 176.1 centimeters — slightly above 5 feet 9 inches, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Being on the short side has not been a barrier in politics to several American presidents. The shortest to date, James Madison, stood 5 feet 4 inches. Over the past century, the shortest was Harry Truman, who was 5 feet 8 inches.
"Mini Me" was a diminutive character in two of the Austin Powers comedy movies, played by Verne Troyer, who died this year. Troyer was 2 feet 8 inches tall — 3 feet shorter than Molinaro.
Coquis Robledo, a spokeswoman for Little People of America, said politicians should refrain from bringing up an opponent's physical stature when they go on the offensive.
She said her group has made significant progress in raising public awareness that the word "midget" is offensive to many people.
The name "Mini Me," she said, refers to a dwarf, and politicians should be discouraged it from using it to take shots at an opponent.
"It's something we don't like to here," she said. "I think anyone should be capable of running for public office regardless of their physical stature."
Povinelli said one in 25,000 Americans are born with a form of dwarfism, a genetic or medical condition that limits their growth.
Dwarfism is defined as having an adult height of no more than 4 feet 10 inches.
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