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Report: Cuomo went after state Dem lawmaker for criticism over COVID-19 nursing home deaths

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THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH COMMENT FROM GOV. CUOMO’S OFFICE

A New York State assemblyman from Queens says Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) threatened that he would be “destroyed” if he did not help contain the damage over Cuomo’s cover-up of nursing home deaths from COVID-19, according to a Wednesday report from The New York Post.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) said the governor phoned him Thursday night, shortly after The Post reported Secretary to the Governor Melissa de Rosa admitted to Democratic lawmakers that Cuomo’s administration withheld death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

“At first, there was a silence on the phone,” Kim said, according to The Post. “Then the governor says, ‘Mr. Kim, are you an honorable man?’”

Kim—who was reportedly in the middle of bathing his children—said Cuomo asked him to draft a statement “to say that Melissa de Rosa said there was a federal investigation and they had to deal with that first,” The Post reported.

During the phone call, Kim said that Cuomo warned him, “You have not seen my wrath. I have been biting my tongue for months.”

“I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished,” Kim recalled Cuomo saying.

“You will be destroyed,” the governor reportedly told him.

According to Kim, Cuomo was so angry that “my wife could hear the governor yelling into the phone.”

At one point, The Post reports, Cuomo, who used to be the New York attorney general, also asked Kim if he was a lawyer, which he isn’t.

“After that call, we were devastated. My wife didn’t sleep at all,” Kim said

After that, the governor “called me four or five times on Saturday” but he didn’t pick up the phone, Kim said.

Gov. Cuomo’s office doubled down on its criticism of Kim, saying in a statement to this reporter:

“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night. I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred. At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration. We did ask for Mr. Kim to do the honorable thing and put out a truthful statement after he told the Governor he was misquoted in a news article, which he said he tried to correct but the reporter refused. Kim said he would correct the story and then broke his word. No surprise. Instead over the last six days he has baselessly accused this administration of pay to play and obstruction of justice. These continued falsehoods are why the Governor chose to speak out today. We will not allow an unscrupulous politician to deceive New Yorkers or distort the truth. Mr. Kim’s current statements do not even align with the comments he made at the meeting (see below). He is without credibility as his own words demonstrate. Lies have caused families grieving from COVID enough pain. We understand it is our obligation to correct misstatements so families understand the true facts during COVID.

“Mr. Kim and the Governor’s office have had a long, hostile relationship. The animosity initiated when Mr. Kim supported a bill protecting nail salon workers only to do a 180 degree reversal after he received significant funding from the owners of the nail salons. He was criticized by good government groups at the time and the Governor’s office called his actions into question. Mr. Kim continues to receive funding from nail salon owners and continues his attempts to remove the protections for nail salon workers. It is an ongoing unethical situation with Kim receiving funding from owners attempting to stop our efforts to protect victimized nail salon workers. We believe Kim’s continuing pay-to-play actions are at a minimum unethical and when and if investigated will prove to be illegal. To be clear, neither the Governor nor his aides threatened any legislators and in fact, the meeting in questions was considered positive by those who attended. It is the distortions of the meeting by those with different agendas that we object to.

“On the merits Mr. Kim and the NY Post and republicans argue that the state’s March 25th order on nursing homes was bad policy. What they fail to mention is the state was following federal policy and if the Post and republicans want to play a political blame game, they should blame Donald Trump and they should have blamed Donald Trump’s since last March 25th when they promulgated the guidance. We will stick to the facts.

“Dr. Zucker does not believe the March 25th order was wrong. Even with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, health experts do not believe it was wrong. We believe it saved lives and the facts demonstrate that. If, with the advantage of hindsight, we concluded the March 25th order was wrong, Commissioner Howard Zucker would admit that and we would take action against the federal government for malpractice in issuing flawed guidance. COVID was already in the nursing homes by the time March 25th arrived. That is a proven fact. Hospital beds were critical. And that is a proven fact. People needed hospital beds with ventilators and critical care nursing staff to save their lives. We provided that. Unlike other states and countries our hospital system was not overwhelmed and we went from the highest infect rate to the lowest and saved lives. That is the irrefutable truth. 

“We do agree that we did not provide enough public information quickly enough which created a void for conspiracy theories to flourish. We accept responsibility for creating the void and in a perfect world, the conspiracy theorists would accept responsibility also. In a more perfect world the conspiracy theorists would stop playing politics and negatively effecting the grieving families who lost loved ones in nursing homes. Obviously in this toxic political environment, it is not a perfect world.”

The governor’s office also included a rushed transcription of Kim’s comments made during a Zoom conference call with state legislators:

“Assemblyman Kim: You should definitely go through. I just gotta hop off, I’m sorry, but just to summarize, I think I’m gonna go through the questions, Commissioner and Ms. DeRosa, I’ll probably have some follow up with them as well. But just moving forward, I think the public just wants to get past this. Commissioner when you, when you came to see us in the Assembly chamber last year, and you wanted to expand the Governor’s powers and we asked for $40 million to get ahead of the coronavirus, many of my colleagues did not want to do that, they did not want to give the Governor those powers. I was one of the few ones that stood up for the Governor. And so it’s this is not about whether you personally like him or not like him. This is a moment that we need to cheer him on, but we need to get behind this executive, because everyone is scared and everyone wants someone to step in and do this right, and I had a lot of faith that we were going to get it right. But over the last few months I think we did lose a lot of trust. Because of lack of communication, for the lack of that, I know we went through all the reasons why. And I just want to get past this. I want to move forward. And I want to get solutions, and I know that we touched on a few items but before I leave, I mean if we can just follow up. Legal immunity, a possible sort of compensation funds for the victims, a structure, some of civil framework a discussion around that. The ombudsman program, someone just mentioned it. I know that Senator May has been passionately talking about giving that some teeth, so they actually have the power to do their jobs. The increasing penalties was just mentioned, and some sort of a recognition, and maybe an apology for the March 25. I know this is something that is a sensitive issue, and no one wants to talk about it, but I think the families, the public I think just recognize, appreciate some sort of honesty, but just, just the recognition of their pain, and I think some sort of contriteness from the Administration would go a very long way. So that’s all I have for today, I really appreciate your time, I know you’re all very busy. Thank you so much and I’ll follow up with other questions. Thank you.”

Kim has been very critical of Cuomo ever since his uncle, Son Kim, died in a nursing home back in April after suffering from symptoms of the coronavirus.

Furthermore, he introduced legislation on Tuesday to strip the governor of his pandemic-related emergency powers, and he also penned a letter co-signed by eight Assembly Democrats alleging that Cuomo broke the federal law against obstruction of justice, according to The Post.

However, during a press briefing earlier on Wednesday, the governor went after Kim, per The Post.

One of the things Cuomo hurled at Kim was an allegation that Kim switched his position on a 2015 law regulating nail salons because “businesspeople in his community got upset.”

“He actually used his lobbying firm to lobby on behalf of the business owners […] then raised money from those business owners and continues to do so,” Cuomo alleged on Wednesday.

“I believe it’s unethical, if not illegal. And I believe it’s a continuing racket because he’s still doing it.”

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

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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.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

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.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“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.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

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.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

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.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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