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Gov. Hochul condemns "cowardly attack" on Salman Rushdie

Governor Kathy Hochul visits Chautauqua Institution on Sunday, August 14, 2022, the site of the stabbing of Salman Rushdie last Friday.
Darren McGee
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul visits Chautauqua Institution on Sunday, August 14, 2022, the site of the stabbing of Salman Rushdie last Friday.

Governor Kathy Hochul was at Chautauqua Institution on Sunday, speaking to a gathering there after the attack on Friday against Salman Rushdie.

The author was stabbed multiple times and a New Jersey man has been charged with attempted murder. Rushdie’s agent did say Sunday that the author is on the road to recovery. He suffered a damaged liver, and severed nerves in an arm and he may lose an eye.

"Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact," the author's son, Zafar Rushdie, wrote in a statement on Twitter on Sunday, as noted by NPR.

The novelist was taken off a ventilator and able to speak "a few words," according to his son. However, Rushdie remains in critical condition, he added, and will stay in the hospital to receive "extensive ongoing medical treatment."

Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old from Fairview, N.J., was charged with attempted murder and assault, New York State Police said. On Saturday, Matar pleaded not guilty, according to The Associated Press. He continues to be held without bail, police said.

On Sunday, Hochul told a gathering at Chautauqua Institution that it is a special place, a place where she said someone decided to act on a threat to an individual who simply spoke the truth and wrote.

“That is why as I talk about a place that doesn’t just value dialogue and freedom of speech, freedom of thought; this place exists because of those values, and I’m here to tell you it will exist for the next 150 years founded on those values as well.”

Hochul said that New York state will continue to advocate on behalf of people like Rushdie, who are not afraid to speak out.

“We condemn the cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie and we condemn any individual or any group that dare violate the sanctity of a place like Chautauqua or to attempt an assassination on a world leader,” the governor said.

Authorities are still investigating a motive in Friday’s attack, although Rushdie has dealt with death threats after he wrote ‘The Satanic Verses’ in 1988, with some Muslims feeling parts of that novel were blasphemous.

The President of Chautauqua Institution, Michael Hill, vowed to continue the kinds of discussion and programming that brought Rushdie to that education and cultural site.

“Chautauqua is committed to providing a home for the voices, the voices of artists, preachers and speakers, who’ve had the ability to change the world for the better,” said Hill. “That’s why we resumed our programming last night, and that’s why we’ll complete the important conversations slated for the rest of our season and beyond.”

State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said that at the direction of the governor, his agency will substantially increase their presence at Chautauqua Institution.

“Some of it you will see, some of the commitment you will see in terms of uniformed trooper, troopers with canines; and a lot of what will happen you won’t see,” said Bruen. “There will be investigators doing background work and threat assessments and other sorts of things that we do.”

Bruen said the State Police will be working in cooperation with the Chautauqua County Sheriff and in discussion with the officials of Chautauqua Institution.

This story includes reporting by NPR and The Associated Press.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.