A defiant New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday derided reports and allegations that his administration severely downplayed the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and hid the numbers to avoid a federal investigation, saying that it’s “a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate.”
“It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate,” Cuomo told reporters at a Friday press conference. “That is a lie. Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”
“I’m not going to let New Yorkers be lied to,” Cuomo also said. “I’m not going to let you hurt New Yorkers by lying about what happened surrounding the death of a loved one.”
In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, according to NBC News.
It was first reported Wednesday by The Albany Times Union that, following reports about the numbers, the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn have begun a preliminary investigation into how Cuomo’s administration handled data about COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
On top of that, a February 11 New York Post exposé reported that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, had privately admitted to Democratic lawmakers that the administration withheld death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.
Furthermore, state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) claimed to The New York Post on Wednesday that Cuomo recently threatened him over the phone, warning Kim that he would be “destroyed” if he did not help contain the damage over his alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths. Cuomo’s senior advisor, Richard Azzopardi, denied Kim’s story and accused the Queens assemblyman of lying.
Adding more fuel to the fire, a study released Thursday by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy, according to The Post, tied “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” nursing home deaths to a since-rescinded March 25, 2020 directive that controversially ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients during the pandemic’s early stage.
A quickly growing number of state and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling either for a full investigation into Cuomo’s administration, stripping him of his pandemic-related emergency powers, or removing him from office entirely.
Friday afternoon, in a major development, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined the calls for a “full investigation.”
“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” she wrote in a statement, according to The Post.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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