The charitable group’s decision to invite Spitzer to speak at its annual gathering sparked a storm of protest from some members but even more noticeably from pro-life groups in the New York area.
A spokesman for Spitzer said the attorney general had been looking forward to addressing the Friendly Son but had “elected” to withdraw from it out of respect for the group. “He didn’t want to cause a problem for the organization,” spokesman Paul Larrabee said.
A spokesman for the Friendly Sons said that Spitzer had not been dumped as speaker but had been party to the decision not to feature him at the dinner set for the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan.
Chris Slattery, who led the campaign against a Spitzer speech, described the decision to proceed without Spitzer as a “wise” one.
Slattery is founder and president of a pro-life counseling organization called Expectant Mother Care. The group runs five centers in New York City.
Slattery said he believed Spitzer was an inappropriate speaker for the event because he was “strongly pro-abortion, pro-gay” and “hostile towards” the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“It was foolish to invite him to a dinner honoring St. Patrick,” Slattery said. “If he had turned up there would have been a donnybrook outside the Sheraton.”
Slattery’s group was only one of several Catholic and pro-life groups to voice their opposition to Spitzer as a speaker at the Friendly Sons dinner.
Spitzer’s office recently carried out an investigation into the finances of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade but no prosecutions resulted from the probe.
Spitzer, considered a leading Democratic contender for the next governor’s race in New York, has not marched in the parade. He has cited scheduling conflicts as a reason for his absence.
Meanwhile, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and Brother Tom Scanlon, president of Manhattan College, will deliver the speeches at the Friendly Sons dinner.
The group’s spokesman said that it was hoped that attendance would match last year’s 2,200 participants.
The spokesman said the brouhaha over Spitzer had not adversely affected the event. “They are coming in droves,” he said.