In a tense conference call with reporters today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took aim at perceived foes and accused Donald Trump and two Rupert Murdoch-owned news outlets of conspiring against him.
Cuomo, who will run for his fourth term in 2022, has been under growing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over the fallout from two major developments in his administration’s handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes.
First, his own attorney general, Letitia James, released a report in late January accusing the Cuomo administration of undercounting nursing home deaths from the virus by omitting those who died in hospital after being transported from their respective facilities.
Then, last week, the New York Post published quotes from Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, admitting that the administration was not releasing more complete data on the death toll among nursing home residents.
The controversy stems from an executive order from March 2020, when hospitals were told to release patients who had tested positive for coronavirus back to their nursing homes upon discharge.
During his conference call, Cuomo zeroed in on the New York Post, which, in addition to breaking the DeRosa story, has been covering the nursing home scandal in addition to other outlets within the Albany press corps.
“Look, the essence of this — the Post’s continuing point on nursing homes, which is the Republicans’ point on nursing homes, and it has been for the past year — Donald Trump started it. That is true. Fox News, New York Post … this is the Republicans’ point. They want to say the March 25th nursing home order was wrong. They want to say the March 25th order is how COVID got into the nursing homes,” he said.
Cuomo continued: “Now, they coincidentally leave out that the March 25th order was done after guidance from Trump’s CDC and CMS. How do you get to the fact we were wrong about following Trump’s CDC and CMS without saying it was Trump and CDC and CMS? I understand that this is politics and you don’t need facts, but this is a kind of blatant deception.”
Cuomo said the criticism he’s faced over nursing homes amounts to nothing more than “conspiracy theories.”
“Yes, I’m going to correct them because they were personal attacks,” the governor said at another point.
Cuomo’s defense of the nursing home decision as solely the result of federal guidance has been fact checked as “mostly false” by PolitiFact.
Nursing home medical directors warned at the time that Cuomo’s executive order could have dangerous ripple effects.
Cuomo once again stopped short of taking responsibility for the order, but he did say his administration left “a void” of information surrounding the death toll, which he said brought more pain upon families who could not visit their loved ones in the facilities.
“People wanted answers and they weren’t getting answers,” Cuomo said. “That’s what I feel bad about.”
New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) told CNN today that Cuomo threatened him over the phone after he criticized the governor over a pause in the release of data on coronavirus deaths in state nursing homes.
“Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,” Kim told CNN.
“We’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines,” Kim said the governor told him. He also said Cuomo told him that he “hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”
“No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,” Kim said of the phone call with Cuomo.
“At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t,” he added.
A Cuomo adviser told CNN that Kim’s account was not accurate.
“Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false,” Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, told CNN. “The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics.'”
Kim’s claims come one day after New York State Sen. Rachel May (D) called on Cuomo to issue an apology for his actions, saying she did not believe his statements so far have amounted to a “a full and sincere apology.”