The Washington Post’s Megan McArdle doesn’t get any points for a too-late admission about Andrew Cuomo but it at least offers some sense of closure on what has tortured many souls for more than a year — that the hyping up of Cuomo during the pandemic was purely political and based on nothing else.
This was clear to anyone who actually looked at the COVID death rate in New York — still the highest in the country, only behind New Jersey — and followed the governor’s attempt to cover up thousands of nursing home fatalities that resulted from orders he issued.
Cuomo wasn’t doing a good job. He was doing the opposite. He did, however, give a daily press conference in a soothing voice. The sense of empathy and command was highly arousing for people like McCardle and CNN’s Brian Stelter.
So moved was Stelter by the briefings that he said on air that he would cite portions of them to his children.
The New York Times memorably described the Democrat governor’s briefings as a “tender embrace.”
“God, now there’s a leader,” said MSNBC Joe Scarborough, no doubt in need of a wet nap.
It was all bullshit, but the media were doing what they needed to do to convince the public that then-President Trump was failing on the pandemic. That in part meant creating a national celebrity out of some Democrat who, unlike Trump, would spend time being sad on TV.
In her column on Wednesday, though, McArdle pulled back the curtain. “For all the plaudits, Cuomo’s covid-19 policy wasn’t particularly good,” she wrote. “Under Cuomo’s leadership, the death toll in the New York City metro area was horrific. To be fair, much of that can be put down to bad luck: The city was hit early and hard, before we had good treatments. But Cuomo’s early response to the pandemic was lackluster at best…”
It’s nice to hear, three months after Cuomo signed a multi-million-dollar book deal so that he could write a tale about how great he was on the pandemic, nine months after he was awarded an Emmy for his outstanding acting abilities during the briefings, and just as many months after an election wherein many voters were convinced that Cuomo really was doing things right and Trump was really was screwing up.
McArdle went on to say that, “Looking back, it’s obvious that Cuomo became the man of the hour less because of his superb performance than his lengthy daily briefings, which markedly contrasted with former President Donald Trump’s haphazard response.”
This is the part where the media remark on a perception that they themselves created.
First it’s: Cuomo is doing well! Check out those briefings!
Then it becomes: The impression was that Cuomo was doing well, even if that wasn’t the case.
The media can both at once frame a story and then fault the framing itself when it doesn’t bear out, and they can do it without feeling a flicker of cognitive dissonance.
McArdle did it again earlier in her column, writing that Cuomo was “dubbed ‘America’s governor’ for how he handled the earliest wave of the pandemic,” while Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, she said, took “a more casual approach to COVID-19.”
That perception exists purely because the media claimed it did, even though it wasn’t the reality. The difference between Cuomo and DeSantis isn’t that either of them was more or less “casual.” It was that Cuomo issued blanket lockdowns and mandates for every single person in his state, while DeSantis was more targeted as to who should be protected — mostly the elderly — in his.
If anything, DeSantis was more meticulous and Florida has a lower death rate than New York.
Maybe six months from now, McCardle will let us know how “looking back” it’s “obvious.”