‘The bullying is nothing new’: de Blasio unleashes on Gov. Cuomo after lawmaker says he was threatened
Assemblyman Ron Kim from Queens said, according to The New York Post, that Cuomo threatened him over the phone on February 11 after the publication reported that Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, admitted privately that his administration withheld coronavirus-related nursing home death data out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors. After The Post‘s exposé, Kim publicly criticized Cuomo’s administration, and Cuomo reportedly threatened Kim that he would be “destroyed” and “finished.”
“Yeah, it’s a sad thing to say,” de Blasio told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday. “But that’s classic Andrew Cuomo. A lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls.”
Wednesday evening, Cuomo advisor Rich Azzopardi denied Kim’s story that the three-term governor threatened him over the phone, accusing the Queens assemblyman of “lying,” saying, “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,’” Azzopardi continued. “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. […] 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.”
Azzopardi added that “Mr. Kim and the Governor’s office have had a long, hostile relationship.”
Nonetheless, De Blasio stated that he believes Kim’s story and that Cuomo’s reported language echoes his reportedly aggressive behavior in the past.
“You know, the bullying is nothing new. I believe Ron Kim, and it’s very, very sad,” de Blasio said to MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski. “No public servant, no person who’s telling the truth should be treated that way. But yeah, the threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment–many, many times I’ve heard that, and I know a lot of other people in this state have heard that.”
Thursday morning during a later press briefing, the Big Apple mayor reiterated that he believes Kim.
“I believe Ron Kim,” de Blasio said. “First of all you can just see just by what he’s saying it’s from the heart and it was a very painful experience for him. I believe him and he did not deserve to be treated that way and I admire him for coming forward and telling exactly what happened.”
Last Friday, de Blasio said that there needs to “full accounting” of the story behind the alleged cover-up of the nursing home deaths in the early stage of the pandemic.
“It’s very troubling. We’ve got to know more. We now need a full accounting of what happened,” he said on “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
“Think about seniors, who their [sic] lives were in the balance and their families, you know, just desperate to get them the help they needed,” he said. “We need to know exactly what happened here. We need to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Furthermore, it was first reported Wednesday evening by the Times Union of Albany that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation, in the publication’s words, “at least in part, the actions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force in its handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the pandemic”.
It followed a bombshell report from state Attorney General Letitia James (D) published late last month showing that coronavirus-related nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%.” According to The Post, Cuomo allegedly hid nearly 1,900 of these deaths in New York City alone.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.