Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024

Democrats Turning Against New York’s Andrew Cuomo

Three-term New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, long feared because of his reputation for responding to any kind of political resistance or public criticism with threats and bullying, is now being widely condemned for that treatment by his fellow New York Democrats.

The once popular governor has been embarrassed by recent revelations that he and his administration deliberately stonewalled requests for information from the New York State legislature and the federal Justice Department about an edict Cuomo’s state health department issued last year, ordering nursing homes to accept Covid patients transferred from New York City hospitals. Then, adding insult to injury, the Cuomo administration attempted to cover up the fatal consequences of that order, which added significantly to the total of 15,000 elderly New Yorkers who have died from their exposure to the virus in the state’s nursing homes.

On March 25, the state’s nursing homes were ordered to accept the transfer of thousands of elderly hospital patients at the height of the initial Covid outbreak, even if they tested positive for the virus. The emergency measure was intended to free up more beds as New York City hospitals were being swamped by a huge influx of new Covid patients.

As it turned out, the order was unnecessary because the Trump administration, in response to Cuomo’s urgent request for federal help, provided thousands of additional hospital beds by setting up a huge emergency field hospital inside the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and by sending a US Navy hospital ship into New York harbor. The extra beds went largely unused, because the rate of new Covid infections in New York had already peaked, but in accordance with Cuomo’s March 25 order, hospitals continued to transfer patients into nursing homes, which were woefully unprepared to prevent the spread of the virus to their vulnerable elderly residents.

The state health department did not rescind its March 25 order until May 10, and Cuomo has never admitted that it was a disastrous blunder. By that time, more than 6,000 exposed patients had been transferred into the state’s nursing homes. According to a newly published estimate by the Empire Center for Public Policy, those transfers were responsible for about 1,000 additional deaths during that period.

Until a few weeks ago, Cuomo’s fearsome reputation for retaliating against his critics had shielded him from responsibility for the deadly consequences of his nursing home order, as well as the discriminatory and excessive restrictions that he issued shutting down New York City’s restaurants as well as its religious schools and houses of worship.


Cuomo had previously been able to dismiss the criticism of his March 25 order as politically motivated or the result of an overreaction by grieving relatives of elderly nursing home residents whose deaths, the governor insisted, were not his fault. But Cuomo’s arguments were refuted by a devastating audit issued in late January by a fellow Democrat, New York State Attorney General Letitia James. It revealed that the state health department had deliberately concealed the fact that at least 5,000 of those who died in the state’s hospitals due to Covid-19 had originally been infected while living in a nursing home, raising by more than 50% the official estimate of 8,500 nursing home Covid-19 deaths.

Cuomo and his state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, continue to deny any wrongdoing. They claim that the initial listing of 5,000 nursing home victims as hospital deaths was not a coverup, but an innocent bookkeeping issue. However, that explanation failed to satisfy members of the New York State legislature, whose official requests for more information on nursing home deaths had been stonewalled by the state health department for months.

For the first time, demands from prominent New York Democrats for more information were added to Republican criticism of Cuomo’s policies, and the media found itself forced to begin re-examining its previous unstinting praise for Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic.


Predictably, Cuomo reacted by going on the offensive, attacking the credibility of longtime Republican critics of his Covid policies, as well as Queens Democrat Assemblyman Ronald Kim. Kim became involved after his 78-year old uncle, Son Kim, a retired dentist who had immigrated to the US from South Korea, and who sponsored young Kim and his parents when they immigrated to this country, died of the virus, alone, after having being exposed in a nursing home last April.

But this time, the trademark Cuomo threats failed to silence his critics. The simmering nursing home scandal exploded again into fresh headlines after a recording surfaced of a private two-hour Zoom meeting on February 10 between one of Cuomo’s closest personal aides, Melissa DeRosa, and a group of Democrat state legislators. DeRosa had admitted that when the Trump DOJ began asking the NYS Health Department for more information about the nursing home deaths, “basically, we [the Cuomo administration] froze,” afraid that the information would be used by Trump in political attacks on Cuomo, who had been an outspoken critic of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Cuomo had initially acknowledged the Trump administration’s response to his emergency request for ventilator and PPE protective equipment for health care workers, which were in critically short supply at the beginning of the pandemic. But soon Cuomo became harshly critical of Trump for having failed to extend the early travel restrictions imposed on visitors from China to New York City to Europeans who had been infected with the virus when it later reached their home countries. Based on that reasoning, Cuomo held Trump personally responsible for the deaths due to the initial pandemic surge in New York City.

Later, Cuomo accused Trump of “waging war” against New York by refusing demands by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include $350 billion in bail out funds for nearly bankrupt Democrat-run city and state governments across the country in the five bipartisan emergency relief measures that Congress passed last year.


Cuomo gloried in the national media attention that his daily press conferences attracted last year. They were produced as counter-Trump propaganda pieces, complete with colorful PowerPoint charts to illustrate Cuomo’s allegedly “science-based” pandemic policies and self-praise for his success in dealing with the virus. They succeeded in making Cuomo a liberal media celebrity, complete with an Emmy Award recognizing the entertainment value of his televised press conference.

In explaining why Cuomo was given the International Emmy Founders Award, the president of the organization said that Cuomo “effectively created television shows, with characters, and plot lines, and stories of success and failure.” During the height of the governor’s popularity, CNN permitted his younger brother, Chris Cuomo, one of its news anchors, to do 10 broadcast interviews with his brother filled with family banter and jokes while hardly pretending to deliver any real news content.

In October, the governor published a self-aggrandizing best-selling book titled, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic, extolling his success. That same month, the New Yorker magazine published an uncritical account celebrating his handling of the pandemic, in which Cuomo was quoted as saying, “If you don’t believe that the truth wins, you can’t do the job. You have to believe that the right thing gets appreciated in the long run. Only the long run matters.”


Cuomo’s claim at that time that you must “believe that the truth wins [in order] to do the job” stood in jarring contrast to the secret admission by his secretary that for nine months, Cuomo’s administration had deliberately hidden the truth from inquiring state legislators and the Department of Justice, to say nothing of the family members of 15,000 nursing home residents who died due to exposure to Covid following Cuomo’s March 25 order.

In light of Melissa DeRosa’s admission, the mainstream media had no choice but to begin reporting the new revelations and accusations concerning the Cuomo nursing home coverup. Senior Manhattan state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried publicly confirmed DeRosa’s admission during the Zoom meeting in which he was a participant, and endorsed calls by other members of the state legislature to revoke the emergency powers it had given to Cuomo last year to deal with the pandemic.

Assemblyman Kim, who is now the chairman of the NY Assembly’s Committee on Aging, was also a participant in DeRosa’s Zoom call. When a New York Post reporter reached out to him for a reaction, he said that DeRosa’s comments were as bad as they looked. “They were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence,” Kim was quoted by the Post as saying. He had also separately said that Cuomo’s refusal to turn over the data on the nursing home deaths amounted to obstruction of justice, in a letter he signed with eight other state Assembly Democrats calling for Cuomo’s impeachment.

The Monday after the Post account was published, Cuomo admitted that he “made a mistake” by creating a “void” that “allowed misinformation and conspiracy” to flourish, and misled his fellow Democrats. There was never any real apology by Cuomo for having withheld information from the public for his personal political advantage, nor any admission that his nursing home order had led to an avoidable catastrophe.


Cuomo’s office published a transcript of its version DeRosa’s Zoom session, and Cuomo then claimed that key New York state legislators had been informed of the decision when it was originally made last summer to “pause” in response to calls for more information about the nursing home deaths. When several of those Democrat lawmakers — including State Senators Jessica Ramos, Alessandra Biaggi, and Gustavo Rivera — denied that Cuomo’s office had given them such a notification, Cuomo publicly called them “wrong [liars]” too.

Assemblyman Kim then complained in media interviews that Cuomo and his aides had called him at home on February 11, the day after DeRosa’s Zoom session. He said that Cuomo had angrily screamed into the phone “I will destroy you!” loudly enough to frighten Kim’s wife and children who were in the same room, unless Kim got the Post to retract his “incriminating evidence” quote.

The quote was not retracted by the Post, so Cuomo publicly called Kim a liar during his next call with reporters. First Cuomo and one of his aides denied to the reporters that he had ever threatened Kim. Then Cuomo personally tried to carry out his threat by accusing Kim of “unethical if not illegal. . . pay to play” political corruption with regard to a bill on nail salon regulations six years ago.

Explaining later why he did not cave in to Cuomo’s demands that he issue a retraction, Kim said, “I felt extremely uncomfortable. I realized if I changed course, I’m complicit, and then, politically, he [Cuomo] owns me. Ultimately, what he was trying to do was asking me to lie about what I heard [during the Zoom meeting with DeRosa],” Kim said. “It’s like I witnessed a crime, and they’re asking me to say I didn’t witness a crime.”

Other Democrat state lawmakers participating in the Zoom session also worried that their positions had been compromised by DeRosa’s admission. Rachel May, a state senator from Syracuse, told DeRosa, “The issue for me, the biggest issue of all, is feeling like I needed to defend, or at least not attack, an administration that was appearing to be covering something up.”


Next, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Kim’s defense, telling MSNBC that he believed the assemblyman’s story. “That’s classic Andrew Cuomo. The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment. . . A lot of people in New York have received those phone calls,” de Blasio said. “The bullying is nothing new.”

The mayor also refused to accept the Cuomo’s administration’s explanation for its delay in releasing the requested information on the nursing home deaths as sufficient. “We need a full investigation, unquestionably; this is about thousands of people’s lives,” de Blasio added. “This is about our elders, and there are families right now in New York State that lost a grandma, a grandpa, aunt or uncle. They are not sure what happened here. They are worried that something was done wrong, and the big question [is] how do we make sure this never happens again.”

CNN then reported that three other New York state legislators confirmed that Cuomo and his staff had been threatening them as well for considering voting for a bill that would strip the governor of his Covid-19 emergency powers, which are due to expire on April 30.


News then broke from reliable sources that the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn had already launched its own unannounced FBI investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of the New York nursing home deaths.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece published Monday, John Daukus, who served last year as the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, explained that the current federal investigation was launched in response to a finding last summer that New York had submitted false numbers in response to its requests for information on the Covid-related deaths in state-run nursing homes, and New York State’s subsequent refusal to submit statistics on deaths in privately run nursing homes.

“Even if it cannot be proved that the Cuomo administration knowingly provided false information to [the Department of] Justice and the [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], New York’s willful failure to provide information may itself constitute a criminal offense — particularly if the intent was to thwart a federal investigation — which, after all, is exactly what Ms. DeRosa reportedly said the [Cuomo] administration did,” Daukas wrote.

Fox News legal analysis Gregg Jarrett agreed that if New York State officials did falsify or hide evidence to avoid triggering a federal nursing home investigation, that itself could support criminal charges of obstruction of justice.

Assemblyman Kim took the federal investigation as further vindication of Cuomo’s responsibility for the deaths in New York’s nursing homes. In an interview with New Yorker reporter Erich Lach, Kim said, “The governor is now trying to make it about me and him, and it’s not.” Kim added that the families of nursing-home residents who died of Covid-19 are still looking for public figures to express their grievances, “and, unfortunately, there are not that many folks who were willing to criticize the governor in the Democratic Party. Even now, when one of their own Democratic members has come out and said that he has been threatened, you can see that most establishment Democrats are silent. They just want this to go away.”


More Democrats then came forward to criticize Cuomo’s Covid-19 policies. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams mocked the popular televised news conferences which Cuomo has used to burnish his false image as the nation’s most successful virus fighter.

“Meet the Governor Cuomo we’ve known all along, beneath the Emmy-winning performance he put on for months,” Williams wrote on Twitter last week.

Williams told a reporter for The Guardian that “the pandemic has exposed many things, and this is one of them. It’s been like a secret that up to now Cuomo’s got away with — his lack of accountability, the way he responds to political winds only when forced to.”

Williams said that what real troubles him about Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home situation was the lack of transparency about what happened after the fact. “My problem with Cuomo’s leadership is not that mistakes were made. Mistakes are always made. But if you can’t take accountability for them and debrief what went wrong, then mistakes get made over and over again and people are dying for it,” Williams explained.

Williams also said he was disturbed about Cuomo’s delay of several days in ordering the initial infection prevention procedures after it had become clear that a pandemic was in progress, as well as his decision to designate an overwhelming majority of black and Latino workers as the “essential workers” who would be required to stay on the job and expose themselves to the virus. “From infection to injection, the governor’s decisions have been wrong at almost every step,” Williams said. “He writes a book on leadership during the pandemic while at the same time hiding data, and people are dying. The arrogance is incredible.”

After Democrats took full control of both houses of state the legislature in Albany as a result of the November 2018 election, Cuomo eagerly signed into law a broad program of ultra-liberal legislation in an effort to win the support of the dominant progressive wing of the party, in hope of achieving future national office. Those efforts also suffered a blow last week when the leader of that progressive wing, New York City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, joined New York Republican House members of Congress Elise Stephanik, Nicole Malliotakis and Lee Zeldin in calls for a federal investigation of the nursing home deaths.

“Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and [DeRosa’s] remarks warrant a full investigation.”


Fox News commentator and former Arkansas Republican Governor Mike Huckabee said, “You know you’re in trouble when you’re Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat governor of New York, and you got AOC. . . and [other] members of your own party who smell the blood in the water and they’re coming after [you].

“His bullying has finally caught up with him and people are no longer pretending they’re afraid of him, and they’re speaking out. . . His arrogance is so overwhelming that he refuses to say, ‘I was wrong.’ People will forgive you for being wrong, [but] they will not forgive you for being arrogant and unwilling to accept responsibility when you have that job,” Huckabee added.

Last Friday, Cuomo’s relationship with his fellow Democrats in the state legislature reached a new low. Negotiations in Albany over the Cuomo’s proposed $193 billion state budget for fiscal year 2022, starting this April, have reportedly ground to a halt.

Beyond supporting legislation that would strip Cuomo of his emergency pandemic powers, 11 Albany Democrat lawmakers submitted a resolution Monday which would censure the governor for “conduct unbecoming” of his office, covering up the scale of the nursing home deaths, supporting legislation that shields nursing home executives from legal liability for their negligence, and threatening legislators who have publicly criticized his policies. Democrat leaders of the New York State Senate also said they would support a bill requiring legislative approval of any future executive orders issued by Cuomo, but would block Republican proposals to launch impeachment procedures against the governor.

Veteran New York Times political reporter Nick Confessore suggested that the rapid deterioration of Cuomo’s support from Albany legislators reminds him of the early stages of the political downfall of former New York Democrat governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace in 2008.

While the still unfolding nursing home scandal has destroyed Cuomo’s reported hopes to ascend to higher national office, no candidate from either party has yet appeared on the horizon capable of successfully challenging Cuomo’s expected bid for reelection to a fourth term as governor of New York next year — at least for now.


Cuomo’s reputation as a credible national Democrat leader suffered its most serious blow on Sunday. President Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, had to dodge and weave to avoid answering a question from ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl about whether Biden still stands by his praise for Cuomo last April, when he said, “the governor of New York has done one [heck] of a job,” and called him the nation’s “gold standard” for leadership during the pandemic.

Psaki’s initial response to Karl’s question was evasive. “We work with Governor Cuomo just like we work with governors across the country,” she responded. “He’s also the chair of the [National Governors Association], so he plays an important role in ensuring that we’re coordinating closely and getting assistance out to people of his state and to states across the country and we’ll continue to do that.

“There, of course, will be a process,” which she said will include investigations of what happened in the nursing homes. “We’ll leave that to others … the appropriate law enforcement authorities to determine how that path is going to move as we look forward.”

Trying to change the focus of the reporter’s question, Psaki then added, “We are going to continue to work with a range of governors — including, of course, Governor Cuomo — because we think the people of New York, the people of states across the country, need assistance, not just to get through the pandemic, but to get through this difficult economic time and that’s where our focus remains.”

Unsatisfied with Psaki’s response, ABC’s Karl asked his original question about whether Biden’s praise for the “gold standard” quality of Cuomo’s leadership still stands, and this time demanding that Psaki give him a clear “yes” or “no” reply in Biden’s name. Psaki rejected the terms of the question, declaring, “It doesn’t always have to be a yes or no answer. I think the president is focused on his goal, his objective as president of the United States. He’s going to continue to work with Governor Cuomo just like he’ll continue to work with governors across the country, and I’m not here to give new labels or names from the president. I’m here to communicate with you about what our focuses are and what his objectives are as president.”

Of course, Karl was not asking Biden’s spokeswoman for “new labels or names” for Cuomo, only whether the grandiose labels and names that Biden had publicly given the New York governor last year were still applicable. Her steadfast refusal to do so in light of the nursing home controversy spoke volumes.


There has been a dramatic change in the worshipful tone of the mainstream media coverage of Andrew Cuomo before the details of the nursing home coverup began to emerge. That change was epitomized by a New York Times report Monday based upon “interviews with more than three dozen legislators, political consultants, former state and city officials and New York political veterans” in which “a recurring portrait emerges of Mr. Cuomo [as] a talented and deft politician [with a] tendency toward aggression.”

That pattern was set almost 25 years ago, in 2007 when a young Andrew Cuomo was appointed by President Bill Clinton as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Karen Hinton, a communications consultant who worked with Cuomo when he was HUD secretary, told the Times that even then, “His primary tool for governing [was] to create fear.”

Hinton fell out with Cuomo after she went to work as press secretary for his frequent rival for power in New York Democrat politics, Mayor de Blasio. After Hinton publicly criticized New York State’s response to a 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, Cuomo angrily demanded that de Blasio fire her.

Even Cuomo’s critics told the Times that he effectively uses his anger as “an executive skill,” and “understands the political value of taking action and creating the perception of strength.”

Josh Vlasto, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, did not deny that Cuomo’s aggressive “traits are there, but they are part of a broader perception of him that the voters like and are comfortable with.”

According to Cuomo’s biographer, Michael Shnayerson, young Andrew learned his “bare knuckles” political style while still fresh out of law school, when he fought New York’s Democrat party machine bosses on behalf of his father, then-Governor Mario Cuomo, during the 1980s.

To this day, Andrew Cuomo rarely backs off or admits publicly to making mistakes, and he is a master at exacting political revenge upon his political opponents.


To exonerate themselves of responsibility for the nursing home deaths, Cuomo and his Health Commissioner, Dr. Zucker, pointed to the fact that their March 25 order had quoted from a March 13 memo from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which stated that, “A nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with Covid-19 and still under transmission-based Precautions for Covid-19 as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions. If a nursing home cannot, it must wait until these precautions are discontinued.”

Zucker also cited separate guidance issued by the CDC last March stating that, “The Covid-19 patients from hospitals should go to the [nursing home] facility with the ability to adhere to infection prevention and control recommendations for care of Covid-19 patients. Preferably patients would be placed at a facility that has already cared for Covid-19 cases,” Zucker added.

But a review by Politifact of the March 25 order and the associated statements by Zucker concluded that it was deliberately meant to convey a message to nursing home administrators that they were not really being given a choice, and that they would have to admit patients infected with Covid-19.

Cuomo continued to defend the March 25 order last week, stating, “My health experts don’t believe it was wrong.” During his press conference last Friday, Cuomo publicly apologized to his health commissioner and his staff, rather than the family members of the 15,000 nursing home residents who died due to Covid. “Sorry that you had to deal with Covid, sorry that you had to deal with a pandemic. . . and I’m sorry then you have to be abused in the partisan politics of the day,” the governor told Zucker.

Cuomo has argued in the past that nursing home patients who contracted Covid last year contracted it from asymptomatic infected adults in the facility, rather than Covid-infected patients transferred from hospitals. But if Cuomo believed that, why did he suddenly cancel the order on May 10, and institute a new policy requiring anyone being admitted to a nursing home to first test negative for the coronavirus?

The March 25 order to nursing homes was immediately condemned by three healthcare industry groups: AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Medicine, the American Health Care Association, and the National Center for Assisted Living. In a March 29 statement, the organizations said they were “deeply concerned” with the clear intent of the order, to force any stable patient capable of being moved out of their hospital bed into any available nursing home, ready or not.

“This is a short-term and short-sighted solution that will only add to the surge in Covid-19 patients that require hospital care,” the groups accurately predicted.


Although Cuomo would later try to shift responsibility for the March 25 order to his Department of Health, it was clear from the sequence of events leading up to the order that the governor knew exactly what he was doing to the nursing homes, and the likely consequences to their vulnerable elderly residents.

On March 20, Cuomo announced the implementation of what he called Matilda’s Law, which he named after his elderly mother. The executive order directed all senior citizens in New York who were 70 or older, or those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions, to take specific health precautions, including limiting and screening their visitors, and staying home except if they needed to go out to exercise, or to obtain food and other essential supplies or medical services.

Three days later, on March 23, he signed into law a provision passed by the state legislature shielding hospital and nursing home executives from any potential legal liability for their decisions that might lead to people’s deaths due to Covid.

Cuomo had received more than $2 million from the Greater New York Hospital Association and its executives and lobbying firms. Before it became an embarrassment, the hospital industry group actually boasted that it had “drafted” that immunity clause. State Attorney General Letitia James has called for the legislature to revoke that immunity clause, because it has created doubt whether the nursing homes that failed to take the recommended measures for containing the pandemic could ever be held accountable for the subsequent deaths.

On March 25, two days after that immunity clause went into effect, Cuomo announced the order directing nursing homes to accept readmit former patients from hospitals who were infected or might be infected with coronavirus. The nursing homes were required to admit every patient who was “medically stable.” It clearly stated that no resident was to be denied readmission “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Covid-19.”


Cuomo, to this day, denies that his decisions contributed to the nursing home Covid-19 death toll. But his claims that his anti-virus policies have always been guided by the best interests of New York voters and the latest findings of scientific research are not supported by his record.

According to an analysis of Cuomo’s governing style by journalist Alex Yablon, his top priority is “burnishing his own reputation and asserting his final authority over every lever of power and policy in the state. . . He does whatever he can to keep a vice grip on the spotlight and decision-making. His Machiavellian impulses seem too often to take precedence over good government, even in times of crisis.”

For example, Cuomo scrapped an effective statewide inoculation plan put in place years ago by county government and public health officials, in favor of a new, ad hoc hospital-based vaccination plan that he controlled, but which failed miserably when the first shipments of Covid-19 vaccine began arriving.

Also, as the New York Times reported, despite his claim that his policies faithfully follow the best available scientific knowledge, Cuomo “all but declared war on his own public health bureaucracy,” driving nine senior state health department officials to resign in frustration because he consistently rejected their expert advice.

Cuomo knows how to put on a good political show by projecting power and government managerial confidence during his carefully crafted television press conferences. But on closer examination, his recent record as governor reveals the glaring inconsistencies driven by Cuomo’s personal political ambitions and unquenchable thirst for complete control which has always dominated the New York governor’s policy-making.



My Take on the News

  Hostility in the Court This week’s top story, without a doubt, was the Supreme Court hearing this Sunday that dealt with the draft of

Read More »


Subscribe to stay updated