A far-right Austrian political party with Nazi roots, which recently signed a “cooperation agreement” with Vladimir Putin, may have a friend on Staten Island. (Those are words we never thought we’d be typing.)
Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the virulently anti-immigrant Freedom Party, says he and other party officials met with Staten Island councilmember Joseph Borelli when they came to New York this past fall.
The news that Strache met recently with Donald Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, created something of a stir when the Times reported it yesterday. But Vienna-based daily newspaper Die Presse noted way back in November that Strache also met several other U.S. politicians, including Borelli — who served as a co-chairman of Trump’s election campaign — on a visit to the U.S. between October 30 and November 6 of this year.
In addition to Borelli, the paper said those officials included Republican Congressmen Steve King of Iowa and Robert Pittenger, of North Carolina.
Strache himself mentioned the meeting with Borelli on his Facebook page in November.
Google Translate helped us with the highlighted portion in the screengrab below:
Here is a rough overview:
Meeting with the Austrian Consul General in New York
Participation in a rally (election campaign) on Long Island
Meeting with Councilman Joe Borelli in Manhattan
Meeting with Congressmen Pittenger and King
Asked about the encounter, Borelli admitted that he met with Freedom Party members, including Harald Vilimsky, for what he called an “informal meet and greet” at his office in Manhattan, but that he didn’t remember crossing paths with Strache.
“I can’t say that I met with him,” Borelli told the Voice, noting that Strache’s name didn’t appear on a list of the delegates he spoke with. “I don’t recognize him at all.” He later added that his building has no record of Strache ever being there.
The Freedom Party has been ascendant in Austria for the past few years, nearly capturing the presidency in recent elections on a platform focused on demonizing immigrants. Strache has called for the expulsion of immigrants who don’t assimilate fast enough for his liking, and his party, which emerged in the 1950s as a refuge for literal former Nazis, is seen as part of the overall far-right, nativist and neo-Nazi revival in Europe. Strache often focuses on the supposed ills of immigration.
“In some school classes just two out of the 30 children are Austrian, and they are confronted with racism every day,” Strache once told the Telegraph. “It is inverse racism. Austrian youths are beaten up in discos.”
As the Times reported yesterday, Strache recently announced that he had signed a cooperation agreement with Putin’s ruling United Russia party, a signal that Russia may be interested in promoting the rise of the far-right worldwide.
Borelli was among the first and loudest Trump supporters on the local political scene, and helped him campaign in New York. (Trump lost the state by 23 points.) Borelli has tried to distance himself from some of Trump’s more bigoted policies — like a proposed ban on Muslim immigration — but he regularly appears as a talking head to promote the president elect.