While many legacy media outlets helped bury Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) COVID-19 nursing home scandal, some Democratic officials in New York have refused to play ball. New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) has vocally condemned Cuomo after his uncle, Son Kim, died in a nursing home in April after suffering COVID-19 symptoms. On Wednesday, Kim told The New York Post that Cuomo threatened him last Thursday before the governor condemned Kim in a press conference.
Cuomo reportedly called Kim on Thursday night, after The New York Post revealed that Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s secretary, privately admitted that the governor’s administration withheld death data for fear that federal prosecutors would use it against them.
“At first, there was a silence on the phone,” Kim told The Post. “Then the governor says, ‘Mr. Kim, are you an honorable man?'”
Cuomo reportedly interrupted Kim while he was “in the middle of bathing my kids.” The governor asked his fellow Democrat to draft a statement “to say that Melissa DeRosa said there was a federal investigation and they had to deal with that first.”
“You have not seen my wrath. I have been biting my tongue for months,” Cuomo reportedly added. “I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished.”
“You will be destroyed,” the governor warned.
Kim said Cuomo yelled so loudly that “my wife could hear the governor yelling into the phone.” The threat reportedly chilled the family. “After that call, we were devastated. My wife didn’t sleep at all,” the assemblyman said.
Cuomo proceeded to call Kim repeatedly on Saturday, but he did not pick up.
On Tuesday, Kim introduced legislation to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-related emergency powers and he also joined eight fellow Assembly Democrats in sending a letter accusing Cuomo of violating the federal law against obstruction of justice.
This Wednesday, the same day Kim spoke to The Post, Cuomo attacked the assemblyman in a news conference. The governor accused Kim of switching 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. “I believe it’s unethical, if not illegal. And I believe it’s a continuing racket because he’s still doing it.”
On March 25, Cuomo forced nursing homes to admit COVID-19-positive patients. This order arguably conflicted with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance that explicitly does “not direct any nursing home to accept a COVID-19 positive patient, if they are unable to do so safely.” New York City served as the epicenter for the first wave of COVID-19 throughout the U.S. and President Donald Trump sent a hospital ship, the U.S.N.S. Comfort, to New York specifically to help amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship only had 20 patients as of April 4, when Cuomo’s administration had ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients.
Last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into Cuomo and other Democratic governors, probing whether or not the governors’ policies forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients had violated the civil rights of nursing home residents. The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI have opened an investigation into the scandal.
The legacy media propped up Cuomo as a true leader during the pandemic, but this governor has a great deal to answer for. It seems he meted out a death sentence to nursing home residents, sending potentially infectious patients to places where they would infect the most vulnerable — and then he allegedly tried to cover it up. Now he has apparently stooped even lower, to engaging in intimidation in a last-ditch cover-up. This is truly despicable.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.