News & Politics

Anatomy of a Cover-up: Media Outlets Bury Cuomo Nursing Home Report, Censor Guest — Updated

Kevin P. Coughlin/ Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP

Note: NBC-Universal has disputed a central claim in this story. According to Mediaite, a full version of the NBC News interview featuring Dawn Best involved Best herself asking to restate her remarks. Even if Best’s claim is entirely false, that does not erase the legacy media’s other attempts to bury the story.

On Monday morning, Dawn Best, whose mother died in April after COVID-19 ravaged her nursing home, accused NBC News and other outlets of censoring her condemnations of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.). Cuomo infamously directed nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, in contradiction of federal guidelines. NBC News allegedly told Best not to even mention Cuomo’s name in her interview. Meanwhile, other legacy media outlets ignored the story altogether.

The nursing home scandal gained new attention after Attorney General Letitia James (D-N.Y.) released a damning report last week, showing that the state government undercounted COVID-19 deaths connected to nursing homes. Legacy media outlets like ABC News and CBS News ignored the scandal completely on the night after the report dropped. CNN’s Chris Cuomo — the governor’s brother — completely ignored the scandal on his broadcast last Thursday. Anderson Cooper filled in for Chris Cuomo on Friday night, and he, too, ignored the scandal.

Yet Best’s story proved the most egregious. Appearing on Fox & Friends Monday morning, Best said that multiple news outlets coached her to leave Cuomo out of her criticism of New York’s COVID-19 nursing home policy.

“Well, I’d like to say, Governor Cuomo failed us now. Am I allowed to say it on your program?” Best asked. “Yes. All right, there we go. Well, I kind of got used to it because the media was never letting me say ‘Governor Cuomo’ all along, and it was being cut out of every interview that I was in.” [Emphasis added.]

“And then I started starting every sentence that they asked with ‘Governor Cuomo,’ so they couldn’t do that to me, so then they were forced to literally ask me to cut out Governor Cuomo’s name,” the woman added. “Lester Holt’s show wasn’t the only one to do it.” [Emphasis added.]

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“So what happened specifically on that show was I was telling them that Governor Cuomo failed us, his books should be named, not Lessons in Leadership, it should be Lessons in Failure,” Best recalled. She added that an NBC News staffer “stopped me and she said to me, can you say that a different way without Governor Cuomo’s name and just say New York failed you? So I had no choice. I had to say New York failed me.”

According to Best, multiple media outlets not only censored her interviews to cut out criticism of Cuomo, but also directed her to avoid mentioning the governor’s name at all. Yet Best has a deeply personal reason to condemn Cuomo’s policy.

“My mom was in the best nursing home, getting the best care pre-March 24/7, fine, healthy and happy,” she explained. “Within three weeks of [Cuomo’s] deadly directive where he sent the COVID-positive patients into the nursing home, my mother was dead from neglect. That was because the nursing home was overrun with COVID patients.”

“I know this because the doctor told me when I called and asked what was wrong with my mother, she said, and this is a quote, she was frantic. She said, ‘The culprit is everywhere. It’s in every unit. The doctors have it, the nurses have it and your mother may have it.’ I had her tested she didn’t have it. It was dehydration,” Best recalled.

“My mother died of neglect because of Governor Cuomo,” the bereaved daughter concluded.

Best’s mother may not have died from COVID-19, but Cuomo’s policy appears to have significantly contributed to her death. Yet Cuomo has deflected criticism, accusing the Trump administration of launching a “political attack” and falsely insisting that he followed federal guidance on the issue.

Conservative media outlets and Republicans have long condemned Cuomo’s nursing home policy. House Republicans have demanded answers from Cuomo and other Democratic governors who issued similar policies. Under former President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into these nursing home policies, probing whether or not Democratic governors violated seniors’ civil rights.

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Yet the legacy media has brushed aside criticism of Cuomo’s COVID-19 policies. Cuomo even won an Emmy award for his daily COVID-19 briefings and published a book about his supposed “success” in handling the pandemic. PJ Media’s Matt Margolis eviscerated the basic premise of Cuomo’s book, briefly laying out the governor’s many errors on the pandemic.

Despite Cuomo’s shoddy record, CNN brought the governor on its news shows no fewer than 47 times since the beginning of March 2020, according to a search of CNN transcripts. Over the last ten months, CNN invited the governor on to his brother’s show no fewer than eleven times. Most of these appearances proved rather chummy, with Chris Cuomo joking about the pandemic with his brother.

Perhaps the most cringeworthy interview came last May when Chris Cuomo teased his brother with a giant test swab, rather than pressing the governor on his nursing home scandal. This interview took place a mere ten days after the governor had finally rescinded his policy.

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Here is a list of Cuomo’s appearances on CNN:

  1. March 3: CNN Newsroom
  2. March 7: CNN Newsroom
  3. March 8: CNN Newsroom
  4. March 9: CNN The Situation Room, CNN
  5. March 10: CNN Special/Live Event
  6. March 11: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  7. March 14: CNN Newsroom
  8. March 15: CNN The Situation Room
  9. March 16: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  10. March 17: CNN: Special/Live Event
  11. March 18: CNN The Situation Room
  12. March 20: CNN The Situation Room, CNN
  13. March 22: The Situation Room, CNN
  14. March 23: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  15. March 27: CNN Newsroom, CNN
  16. March 27: Erin Burnett OutFront
  17. March 28: CNN Newsroom
  18. March 30: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  19. April 2: CNN Special Event
  20. April 5: CNN Special Event
  21. April 5: CNN Newsroom
  22. April 7: Erin Burnett OutFront
  23. April 8: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  24. April 13; CNN The Situation Room, CNN
  25. April 13: Erin Burnett OutFront
  26. April 15: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  27. April 22: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  28. April 23: CNN Special Event
  29. May 3: CNN Newsroom, CNN
  30. May 5: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  31. May 13: Cuomo Prime Time, CNN
  32. May 20: Cuomo Prime Time
  33. June 1: Erin Burnett OutFront
  34. June 12: CNN The Situation Room
  35. June 18: CNN Special Event
  36. June 22: CNN Newsroom
  37. June 24: Cuomo Prime Time
  38. July 16: CNN Newsroom
  39. July 24: CNN Newsroom
  40. September 25: Erin Burnett OutFront
  41. October 9: CNN Newsroom
  42. October 13: Anderson Cooper 360
  43. October 26: CNN The Situation Room
  44. November 13: CNN The Situation Room
  45. November 13: Anderson Cooper 360
  46. December 21: CNN The Situation Room
  47. January 26: CNN The Situation Room

Media bias like this helps explain how the uninspiring Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 election. While legacy media outlets demonized Trump’s COVID-19 response — even resorting to outright lies and condemning Trump for “xenophobia” when he used the same words to refer to the pandemic that legacy media reporters had months earlier — they repeatedly praised Cuomo despite the governor’s serious failings. Even after last week’s damning report, many outlets are still carrying water for Cuomo.

Update February 1, 2021, 5:05 p.m. Eastern:

An NBC News source gave Mediaite a full version of the NBC News interview featuring Best, and the video appears to contradict Best’s claims. In the interview, Best asks NBC News reporter Kristen Dahlgren to ask her the question “in a different way” because “I didn’t say that as well as I could.”

Here’s Mediaite’s transcript:

Dahlgren: How big of a failure do you think New York’s response was to COVID when it comes to nursing homes?

Best: Okay. Governor Cuomo has written a book ‘Lessons In Leadership’. He knew that the numbers were twice as high. And he was hiding it. And he was hiding it because what we’re gonna find out and we’re finding out is that New York State had was such a failure. His handling – his book’s named ‘The Lessons In Leadership,’ I believe. His book should be ‘lessons in failures’. New York State was a tremendous failure. Most of the so many unnecessary deaths, the nursing home deaths were preventable. They they didn’t, there was a certain amount that obviously would have happened because of their natural natural circumstances. But they were, they were set up and I didn’t say that as well as I could. If you want to ask me in a different way I could.

Dahlgren: Did New York state fail your mother?

Best: New York State failed my mother and failed 1000s of people’s mothers and fathers and I know many of these people, and I watched their suffering every day. And they are still suffering. Now, there’s people in nursing homes that they haven’t had visitors in a year. My mom would not have fared well. I’m watching people die every day. Because there there’s there’s more deaths because of the failures of New York state that really needs to be addressed. It’s a very, very big failure.

Mediaite went on to explain that the NBC Nightly News segment criticized Cuomo. The segment included a quote from Best saying, “A third-grader would know not to put Covid patients in with the most vulnerable.” It also featured B-roll of Best holding a sign reading, “Cuomo killed my mother.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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