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Ackerman doesn’t regret Kennedy−J. Lo remark

Outspoken U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D−Bayside) said U.S. Senate hopeful Caroline Kennedy is being “Sarah Palinized” by her handlers and the daughter of late President John F. Kennedy will need more than her name to be successful if appointed to the post.

Those comments came during an appearance Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS, nearly a week after he said that all he knew about Kennedy was her name recognition, which she shares with celebrities like actress and singer Jennifer Lopez

Kennedy met with Gov. David Paterson last week to discuss her interest in the Senate seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D−N.Y.), who was tapped by President−elect Barack Obama to be his secretary of state. The seat would become vacant if Clinton is confirmed by the Senate and Paterson would name her replacement.

She also toured the western part of the state and met with the mayors of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

Ackerman compared Kennedy’s dealings with the press while on the tour with that of Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate who ducked interviews with reporters shortly after she was selected by U.S. Rep. John McCain (R−Ariz.).

“They’ve basically Sarah Palinized her, if I can coin a phrase,” Ackerman told moderator Bob Schieffer about Kennedy. “They’re answering questions that you have to submit in writing. She’s not talking to reporters as she makes this grand tour. They’re kind of building a mystique and an industry around her when we need somebody to fight.”

He also said a Kennedy’s pedigree, which is part of modern American history, only goes so far in politics.

“Rembrandt was a great artist,” Ackerman said. “His brother, Murray Rembrandt, wouldn’t paint the house.”

The 65−year−old legislator told the TimesLedger he had no regrets over telling WWOR personality Steve Malzberg that he does not know much about Kennedy “except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo. I wouldn’t make J.Lo the senator unless she proved she had great qualifications, but we haven’t seen them yet.”

“I don’t regret anything,” Ackerman said in a phone interview last week after coming back from a trip to the Middle East and Afghanistan. “I said statements that might have been flippant. ... I’m a pretty flippant, funny guy.”

Ackerman said the Lopez reference was not meant to draw a comparison between the entertainer and Kennedy.

“I just never thought of [Kennedy] as a candidate,” the congressman said. “I don’t know what her qualifications are because she hasn’t been in the business. Maybe she has good ideas that we haven’t seen yet. She could be great.”

The flippant Ackerman also ruffled some feathers in upstate New York. “I don’t do Utica,” he told Malzberg, a reference to the land of upstate legislators who do not always look kindly on New York City and its environs. Nevertheless, Ackerman visited Utica Monday and appeared none the worst for wear.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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