Corey Johnson accused of having rival bumped from church speech

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Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, the leading female Democratic candidate in the race for comptroller, is accusing rival Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, of elbowing her out of a speaking engagement Sunday at a Queens church.

Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor and veteran business journalist, shared emails between her campaign and staff of First Baptist Church of Corona-East Elmhurst over the prior weeks about an invitation to speak to the congregation.

But Caruso-Cabrera was surprised — and livid — when she showed up at First Baptist Church Sunday morning only to be told she could not speak about her candidacy.

Caruso-Cabrera arrived at the church, and was immediately ushered into a back room where she was informed that Johnson would speak in her place, a campaign source said.

The local councilman, Francisco Moya, also was permitted to speak.

The Council had provided First Baptist Church $100,000 for its food pantry during the coronavirus pandemic.

First Baptist Pastor Patrick Young chalked it up to a “mix-up in scheduling” and offered Caruso-Cabrera a chance to speak at the church this Sunday, June 6.

Young insisted he did not knuckle under pressure to have Johnson bump Caruso-Cabrera to speak first to his largely black congregation, because of funding the Council provided the church food service in the budget.

Young, who is active in a statewide faith-based group called Mobilizing Preachers and Communities, said Johnson’s campaign had called nine days before the service, requesting time to speak.

But he also said, “Corey Johnson is a speaker of the Council and he did something tremendous for our church.”

“If [Caruso-Cabrera) was big-footed, she wouldn’t be allowed to speak. Our door is open to all,” Young said.

Caruso-Cabrera was skeptical about Pastor Young’s explanation for replacing Johnson with her as speaker.

“Either Corey is so worried about the growing support for my campaign that he is following me and using taxpayer dollars he controls as speaker to influence who will speak at churches in an effort to save his campaign, or Reverend Young wants us to believe in coincidences — that of all the churches in this city, Corey was accidentally confirmed to speak at his church on the exact same day as me,” Caruso-Cabrera said.

Johnson campaign spokesman Avi Small said of the church speaking flap, “Corey was honored to receive an invitation to address First Baptist Church and happily agreed to attend services on the date Pastor Young recommended. Any claims otherwise are silly and completely untrue.”

Caruso-Cabrera ran for Congress last year, losing to incumbent lefty firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary. First Baptist Church is part of the congressional district and Caruso-Cabrera, a Queens resident, had stumped in the area.

Other candidates running in the Democratic primary for comptroller include Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, who is backed by AOC; Queens Assemblyman David Weprin, Manhattan state Sen. Brian Benjamin, Brooklyn state Sen. Kevin Parker and former marine and veterans’ health advocate Zachary Iscol, among others.

The comptroller is the city’s financial watchdog whose office audits government agencies, monitors the budget and spending, issues reports on the economy and manages the municipal employee pension funds.

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