The coronavirus pandemic was kind to Andrew Cuomo. The New York governor has a well-earned reputation as something of a bare-fisted political thug in Albany but an event that turned out to be a disaster for President Donald Trump and most Americans has been a political windfall for Cuomo.
Or at least it was until last week, when New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report concluding Cuomo’s administration had undercounted the number of coronavirus deaths of nursing home patients by nearly 4,000. The real death total was far higher than Cuomo had claimed. Within hours of the report being issued, the state Health Department released previously unpublished records acknowledging that the real number was 12,743, not 8,740 as posted by the state’s website only hours earlier.
All of this illustrates the cost of an avoidable error: a March 25, 2020, New York state order handed down by Cuomo and his health department ordered nursing homes to accept recovering coronavirus patients despite the risk to other residents.
Typically, evidence that a politician was personally responsible for thousands of deaths would be a career-ender. But Cuomo doesn’t think the normal rules of politics apply to him. Or, at least that’s the only explanation for his performance at a Friday press conference in which he dismissed the report. Just as he did last spring when first confronted with the awful results of his misguided order, he deflected responsibility and demonstrated what can only be described as callous indifference.
“Who cares [if they] died in a hospital. Died in a nursing home. They died,” Cuomo said, as if the fact that this higher total is of no importance. He then compared the death of his father Mario of heart disease to those who were felled by the virus because of his mistake.
As he has in the past, rather than accept responsibility, Cuomo blamed it all on the Trump administration. Yet at no point did Washington ever mandate that states act as Cuomo did. But to Cuomo, the effort to hold him accountable is just a personally “cruel” and partisan “political attack.” But now there’s no denying that state officials have been doing everything they could to cover up the extent of the catastrophe.
The pertinent question is not so much why Cuomo still believes he’s invulnerable to criticism for his role in killing so many people but how he has been able to successfully portray himself as a COVID hero even as proof of his blunder has been in plain sight for months.
The answer is that with little hope of serious political opposition at home — Cuomo appears bent on running for a fourth term as the governor of deep-blue New York in 2022 — and with the mainstream media not only refusing to highlight his role in so many deaths but actively promoting the idea that he was the ideal COVID crisis leader, Cuomo has every reason to believe that he can say “who cares?” to the many bereaved families and get away with it.
The same applies to the news that nine key state health officials have recently resigned in protest over Cuomo’s scorn for health “experts,” which the governor has dismissed in the same manner.
As the pandemic spread, virtually every level of government across the globe wound up being exposed to criticism for bad judgment and mismanagement or, as in Trump’s case, inconsistent and often counterproductive messaging.
Yet Cuomo saw the coronavirus as a golden opportunity. In the first months of the crisis, his daily press conferences about the situation were treated by the press as “must-see TV,” with his rambling comments on his family mixed with those about efforts to deal with the outbreak. His occasional touches of humanity when speaking of the need to protect parents or grandparents who were most at risk from the contagion helped make the Cuomo pressers useful for a panic-driving media.
His real edge, however, was that he provided a Democratic alternative to Trump on the pandemic that was not being provided by Joe Biden — the party’s then presumptive presidential nominee who had already gone into virtual hiding.
Cuomo’s younger brother Chris shamelessly used his daily 10 p.m. show on CNN to hype his brother’s supposedly sage conduct. Their transparently partisan prime-time comic exchanges would have embarrassed their far more serious father, Mario, but since anointing the elder Cuomo brother an example of good pandemic leadership served the partisan interests of a network dedicated to defeating Trump, their hijinks continued.
Despite the efforts of many to shine a light on Cuomo’s role in nursing home deaths, the leftist media blackout of that discussion turned the governor into a hero, earning Cuomo a self-reverential book about his allegedly great crisis leadership, as well as a special Emmy Award for what was described as his “masterful” COVID-19 briefings.
That someone with such a tarnished record on the issue could be celebrated in this manner is inexplicable outside of the context of 2020 politics. Both the corporate media and leftist popular culture leaders dedicated themselves to blaming Trump for every COVID-19 death.
Indeed, even as Cuomo’s pandemic blunders were downplayed by the legacy media, pro-Trump governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis were attacked despite their own records being at least as good if not better than Cuomo’s.
Some are calling for Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean to run against Cuomo next year as a Republican. Dean, whose in-laws died in conjunction with Cuomo’s nursing home order, has been a loud and consistent voice speaking out on behalf of the victims as well as demanding accountability from Cuomo. It remains to be seen, however, whether Dean will run, or if the spotlight her candidacy would place on Cuomo’s appalling record would make a difference in a state where the GOP is effectively dead.
Until proven otherwise, it appears that Cuomo will get away with his arrogant refusal to be held responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths. That this is the case speaks volumes not only about his lack of conscience but of the corrupt nature of the media that helped this happen.