Monroe council president calls GOP candidate a ‘pig’ on hot mic
MONROE (Middlesex) — Republicans are demanding the resignation of Township Council President Miriam Cohen after she made derogatory comments about two GOP candidates for the council.
And although Cohen later apologized for calling her adversary a "pig," she told New Jersey 101.5 on Friday that the word was probably "the nicest thing I could say" about a man who often disparages people online and who has faced calls for his own resignation from the school board for comments he has made.
Cohen's remark came at the end of Monday's meeting held using Zoom. The meeting had ended when Cohen, 80, said that Melody Amantea-Henry and Timothy Eosso would be back every meeting to ask questions.
"And Mr. (Peter) Tufano, whom I affectionately call the pig," Cohen said, adding that said she needs to be "better prepared" for answering their questions. Tufano is a member of the Monroe Township Board of Education and running for an at-large seat on the council.
"I said it. My only regret is that I said it within the council chambers. I'm an elected official, I'm the council chair and I hold myself to a higher standard," Cohen told New Jersey 101.5, adding that she immediately apologized.
Middlesex County GOP Chairwoman Lucille Panos in a statement called for Cohen's resignation or for the council to censure her and vote to remove her as president.
"Calling out Republican candidates by name for asking questions, announcing her derogatory nickname for a candidate and stating that she needs to be better prepared are all reasons I call for Council President Cohen to resign," Panos said.
An online petition was posted by resident Brian Fabiano also calling for Monroe Acting Mayor Stephen Dalina and the council to ask her to resign.
"Her behavior clearly shows a disdain for the residents of Monroe, and the genuine concerns many have in the areas of overdevelopment and sky-high property taxes. Her unpreparedness on the issues and unwillingness to engage civilly with her constituents shows she is unfit to hold elected office," Fabiano wrote.
"They are not relatives, personal friends or childhood pals. Like many, I stand up for what's right for our community regardless of political affiliation. I am a registered voter with no specified party even," Fabiano said of his interest in the comments.
Dalina told the news site CentralJersey.com that Cohen apologized and it was "time to move forward." Dalina on Friday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for comment.
Cohen was appointed to the open at-large council seat in March 2017 and was elected to a full term in November.
She called Tufano out on his previous indiscretions on social media and said it was perhaps the kindest thing she could have said about him.
"He on social media has used the 'c-word' referring to women as bitches, whores, language I am not comfortable uttering, I must tell you. He has made fun of how women look and has made racist comments. Truly, in my opinion, it was an unfortunate word that I used and it was potentially the nicest thing I could say about him," Cohen said.
She does not plan on resigning and instead plans to continue for the rest of her term as council president.
Tufano was the subject of his own call to resign in 2020 over "countless irresponsible and derogatory remarks" he made in the private Monroe Township Voice Facebook group, according to an online petition created by Monroe Township High School graduate Sasha Risko.
The petition said Tufano's comments were in violation of the board's code of conduct, which asks that members refrain from "making defamatory statements about the Board of Education, the school district, employees, students, or their families."
According to an NJ.com review of the comments, Tufano said protesters were dressed like "bums" and referred to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a Sikh, as "turban man." Risko told NJ.com that Tufano threatened her with legal action over the petition, which is still posted.