Claiming his First Amendment rights are under attack, Bronx City Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., is calling on the Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics to immediately disclose any existing findings of its apparent investigation into his comments that “everybody” in the City Council “is controlled by the homosexual community.”
In an April 3 letter to Staten Island Councilmember Steven Matteo, who chairs that committee, Diaz said he wants to know whether the committee “has made any determination which may amount to a threat to my… first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.” He added that he “will not sit back and be victimized or bullied into submission or silence by what seems to be politically motivated attacks on my credibility.”
The Council has not yet announced any findings related to the investigation — or even confirmed that it is taking place — and a spokesperson for Matteo did not respond to a request for comment on the probe or Diaz’s letter.
The 75-year-old former state senator has continued to stand by his anti-LGBTQ comments, even after the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles, which was only created last year and he chaired, was disbanded and most of his colleagues publicly called for his apology and resignation.
“We all know that in February, an effort was initiated to suppress my first amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion by the use of the media and Twitter,” Diaz continued in his letter. “This was clearly an attempt to mar my reputation as a duly elected official and to discredit me.”
Diaz’s attempt to paint himself as the victim resembles the approach he took during a February interview with Gay City News, when he doubled down on his comments and said, “If anyone’s being harassed, it’s me. Look at the way they write their tweets, with their nasty words, the foul language that they use. I didn’t do that.”
Diaz has continued to utilize Twitter as a platform to defend himself with an approach that has often only reinvigorated negative publicity about him just when the storylines appear to be dissipating.
That was evident when he recently chimed in on the controversy surrounding Brooklyn Councilmember Kalman Yeger, who was removed from his seat on the Immigration Committee after he tweeted that “Palestine doesn’t exist.” When Yeger subsequently tweeted that “free speech must reign, even in the Council,” Diaz tied that storyline to his own case by expressing frustration that Yeger was among those to vote to dissolve the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles.
“I do agree with Kalman Yeger when he said ‘free speech must reign, even in the Council’ to [sic] bad he did not agree with me when they came after me and speaker Jonhson [sic] eliminated my committee.”
Among many other examples, Diaz on March 12 retweeted a strange Twitter post featuring a screenshot of an article with a highlighted sentence that read, “Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors.”
On March 25, Diaz pointed to a years-old, since-deleted video featuring rapper Fat Joe saying that the “Gay Mafia” controlled hip-hop.
“To all those that were asking for my apology I would like you to listen to what Fat Joe says in this video,” Diaz said in a tweet that day. “Why the outrage for me? Because I’m a Christian?”
Although Diaz lost the support of many of his colleagues in his display of homophobia earlier this year, he recently announced he is interested in running for Congress to replace outgoing Bronx Representative José Serrano, who announced he will not run for re-election in 2020 due to his health. Diaz expressed interest only after his out gay Bronx colleague, Councilmember Ritchie Torres, made it clear he is considering a run for the same seat in what is shaping up to be a crowded field of contenders.
Diaz’s potential congressional bid could be buoyed by the strong support he has enjoyed in his district, which encompasses Soundview, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Clason Point, and Harding Park. He drew a large crowd of supporters to a rally at his district office in the days following the uproar over his homophobic comments about who controls the Council.
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