SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Westchester County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino was taken to task Monday for a quote that seemed to compare Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a “mafia boss.”

Appearing in Syracuse on Monday afternoon, Astorino took Cuomo to task over a New York Times report last week suggesting that his administration interfered with the work of an anti-corruption Moreland Commission.

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Quoted in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Astorino said: “To suggest that he was suggesting to the commission members where they should go with an investigation is like a mafia boss coming forward and saying that he wants to make a suggestion, an offer you can’t refuse. That is clearly intimidation.”

He called the Moreland Commission Cuomo’s “Watergate” and suggested that it was worse than the actions of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in office, as well as the Bridgegate scandal that has engulfed members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in New Jersey, according to published reports.

The “mafia” comment quickly drew a rebuke from Huntington, Long Island Town Supervisor Frank Petrone.

“Mr. Astorino’s comments are an outrage and an affront to all of us who are proud of our heritage and who fight to combat the harm caused by stereotyping,” Petrone said in a statement. “That someone who would stoop so low as to resort to these types of comments is running for governor is offensive not only to Italians but to all voters in New York State.”

Earlier Monday in Buffalo, Cuomo dismissed claims that his administration interfered in any way with the Moreland Commission.

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He said the now-defunct commission made its own decisions and that his office only offered suggestions. Cuomo, a Democrat, created the commission a year ago and dismantled it this spring.

The New York Times reported last week that a top Cuomo aide pressured commissioners to stop subpoenas to a media-buying firm that Cuomo used and to a real estate organization whose members financially supported his campaign. Cuomo’s office had said a commission created by the governor can’t investigate the governor’s office.

One of the commission’s chairmen, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, also said Monday that Cuomo’s office never interfered.

Astorino and State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said the allegations amount to criminal obstruction of justice.

Federal prosecutors have begun investigating the roles played by Cuomo and members of his staff in the commission’s demise.

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