Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul called out SUNY chancellor for offensive remark about top staffer


Incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul once called out SUNY Chancellor James Malatrasfor making an offensive remark about her chief of staff — raising questions about whether she wants him to remain the powerful head of the 64-campus public university system, sources told the Post.

Malatras is a favorite of disgraced outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He previously served as Cuomo’s state operations director and was a key adviser on the governor’s coronavirus task force before the SUNY board of trustees hired him as chancellor, at Cuomo’s behest.

Malatras enraged Hochul a few years ago when he made what she viewed as an offensive remark or slur about her chief of staff, Jeff Lewis, during a cheeky slide presentation at a holiday party.

“Jim made a joke about Jeff and the lieutenant governor was offended,” said a source who was at the event. “I remember the fallout more than the joke.”

Jeff Lewis was the subject of an insensitive joke made by James Malatras that infuriated Kathy Hochul.
Jeff Lewis was the subject of an insensitive joke made by James Malatras that infuriated Kathy Hochul.

The insensitive joke was concerning enough that a source close to Hochul on Thursday confirmed to The Post both the incident and her displeasure with Malatras at the time.

“The incident happened. She did call Malatras out and she raised it with the governor’s senior staff,” the Hochul insider said.

“She demanded an apology. Jeff Lewis was happy with the lieutenant governor’s response and moved on,” the source close to the current lieutenant governor said.

But Malatras told The Post that he “didn’t even remember” offending Lewis and Hochul and insisted he “always had a good relationship” with the current lieutenant governor.

“She never raised it with me. If she raised it with me I would have apologized,” Malatras said.

He noted that Hochul appeared at a meeting he had Thursday with SUNY college presidents.

“I respect her very much,” he said.

Malatras distributed a letter to SUNY leadership on Monday night condemning Cuomo’s behavior after state Attorney General Letitia James released a damning report concluding that the governor had sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers.

“Simply put, I was outraged at the repugnant acts detailed in the report. As you all know, I have worked with the Governor at certain points for many years. It was always a difficult and demanding environment to work in,” Malatras said in a letter to all SUNY campus presidents.

James Malatras was slammed by Kathy Hochul following what she thought was an insensitive joke he made about her staffer.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Ge

“I want to assure you, however, that I had no knowledge of the actions corroborated in the Attorney General’s report, conduct that far exceeded anything I could even fathom during my time in the Governor’s Office.”

Earlier this year, Malatras denied any role in changing a state Department of Health report to cover up the state’s true nursing home death toll from the coronavirus. He said he reviewed and provided input regarding the “scientific language” in the report

“As with many reports, there were back and forth with structure, citations and other language during the process, but to be clear, I included the fatalities data provided by the New York State Department of Health which I did not alter and change,” he said.

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