A letter to Phil Oliva

To the Editor,

This is a letter penned to Phil Oliva, County Executive Rob Astorino’s chief of staff regarding some of his statements on social media as of late.

Do his beliefs reflect those of Astorino’s administration, who have remained mute as Oliva becomes more vocal?

Mr. Oliva,

I write to you as a resident of Westchester County and a concerned citizen. Like many in our community, I was quite troubled by your tweets of the past months supporting the now defeated French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

There can be two possible explanations for expressing these kinds of sentiments:

  1. You are unaware of Le Pen’s policies and beliefs.

For instance, are you aware that Le Pen’s foreign policy platform included restoring relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, whose human rights atrocities represent modern crimes against humanity? Le Pen also sought to embrace Russia, weaken NATO and withdraw, perhaps fatally, from the European Union, with grave consequences for continental stability.

Or are you unaware that her National Front party has a long history of anti-Semitism and belittling the Holocaust? Le Pen’s own statements as recently as last month sought to rewrite France’s own complicity in hundreds of thousands of Jewish deaths, claiming that France had sent no more than 13,000 Jews to death camps, as if that was almost an acceptable number.

  1. You tacitly or actively agree with Le Pen’s views.

Maybe you are not too concerned that hate crimes have surged all over the world. But here in New York, the Anti-Defamation League reported 97 anti-Semitic crimes in first three months of this year. That’s a 70 percent increase over the 57 incidents reported over the same period last year.

It deeply concerns me that on May 4 you stated on your Facebook page the following sentiments, “We’re constantly told of the ‘rise in hate crimes’ since Trump was elected but has there been a ‘hate crime’ that hasn’t been proven to be a hoax?”

As the chief of staff for Astorino, I am wondering whether your public statements reflect the beliefs of your boss. According to your job description, your work “involves highly sensitive issues requiring tact, discretion, and responsiveness to the philosophy and public mission of the county executive in dealing with executive level public officials, elected officials, representatives of the business community, the press, constituents and others.”

I cannot see how praising Le Pen and denying hate crimes is congruent with the public mission of this Astorino and his administration. If you are ignorant of Le Pen’s hate-filled platform or unaware of the realities of the hate crimes happening in your own backyard, then perhaps a refresher with the Anti-Defamation League would be helpful.

If you truly believe what you write on social media, then it is well that our communities in Westchester take note and draw whatever conclusions they need to about your continued role in support of Astorino.


Danielle Tagger-Epstein,

Rye City councilwoman