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House hopeful’s aide lied about Sandy on Twitter

A Twitter user "ComfortablySmug" claimed Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been stranded in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. The user was later revealed to be Republican congressional candidate Christopher Wight's campaign manager, Shashank Tripathi. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
TimesLedger Newspapers

Christopher Wight, who is running against U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), slammed the actions of his former campaign manager, who had admitted to writing messages on Twitter with inaccurate information about Hurricane Sandy during the storm.

Shashank Tripathi ended up resigning as Wight’s campaign manager Tuesday and apologized for his actions on Twitter after the website Buzzfeed discovered his misleading observations.

“Not only are we reeling from the shock of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction to our communities and surrounding areas, but I also remain shocked and disgusted by the actions of my former campaign manager, Shashank Tripathi,” Wight said in a statement. “His actions were all the more distressing, occurring as they did, in the midst of Monday’s disastrous weather — during a time when no one was truly safe.”

Wight, a Manhattan Republican, is running for a redrawn congressional seat that encompasses Long Island City, Astoria south of Astoria Boulevard and parts of Maspeth, as well as parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Tripathi, who blogs under the handle “ComfortablySmug,” wrote tweets Sunday and Monday saying Consolidated Edison was going to shut down and later had shut down all electrical power in Manhattan in advance of the storm surge. While Con Edison did kill power to Lower Manhattan, and other outages occurred in the area, most of the borough north of 34th Street kept their lights on.

On Monday, Tripathi also wrote that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was under 3 feet of water, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been trapped in Manhattan and taken to a secure shelter and that the MTA would close all subways for a week. All of these statements were untrue.

“While some would use the anonymity and instant feedback of social media as an excuse, I take full responsibility for my actions,” Tripathi said on Twitter. “I deeply regret any distress or harm they may have caused.”

He said he hoped the voters would not judge Wight for his actions.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he had been in talks with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office to potentially charge Tripathi with crimes. Vallone characterized Tripathi’s actions as yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater and said the DA’s office was taking the incident seriously.

“I hope he’s less comfortable and less smug now,” Vallone said, referring to Tripathi’s handle.

Vallone said Wight’s campaign should not be held responsible for Tripathi’s actions.

“That’s not what’s important here,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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