New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has deservedly been in the hot seat over the last two months, as waves upon waves of troubling allegations have hit him squarely in the you-know-where.
There’s the nursing home scandal, which was revived by NY’s Democratic attorney general back in January, in a report detailing how the number of COVID deaths from nursing homes could be as much as 50% higher than originally reported (which turned out to be true). Then there was his administration’s admission that they deliberately withheld nursing home data from state lawmakers, in an attempt to obstruct a potential investigation by President Trump’s DOJ. There was also the news that his administration had altered numbers in a nursing home report to conceal them from the media, politicians, and the public.
There are also the various sexual harassment allegations and, even more troubling, a sexual assault claim was recently made by someone who reportedly still works in his administration. In addition to that, Cuomo has been hammered by report after report exposing his ironclad grip on the Democratic party and some media outlets in his state, and some of the cutthroat ways he held on to his power for so many years — something that was an “open secret” in the media/political world in New York for years.
One of the ruthless ways Cuomo was able to hold on to his power was in how he used his popularity as a weapon with which he would threaten his critics, even some who agreed politically with him more often than not. Back in mid-February, the New York Times provided numerous examples of this, including one instance where he insinuated he would compare a political foe to a child rapist, if he didn’t give him the right kind of endorsement in the 2018 gubernatorial race:
In the fall of 2018, for example, when Mr. Cuomo was told by a leader of the Working Families Party — which had backed his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon — that it would endorse him in the general election because he was better than a Republican, Mr. Cuomo’s response was blunt.
“If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m going to say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist,’” the governor said, according to two people who were on the call. “How about that?”
Officials in the Cuomo administration denied the account at the time, but in a podcast that went live today, the Times brought the receipts, in this case an audio recording of the call in question:
— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) March 19, 2021
Listen to what was said, below:
In a 2018 phone call w/ the leader of NY’s Working Families Party, @NYGovCuomo takes umbrage at how they’re wording their endorsement of him:
“If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m going to say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist’” [via the NYT] pic.twitter.com/ZTo5YpdjSl
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 19, 2021
Knowing what has been obvious for a very long time about how Cuomo operates, it’s not a surprise at all to find out that he and his administration lied about the “child rapist” conversation. But considering how so many in the New York media were said to be intimidated enough by Cuomo that, at times, they would suppress damaging reports on him for fear of retaliation, props to the New York Times for not backing down.
I listened to the entire podcast today, and what was especially interesting to me was in the discussion that started at around the 20-minute mark about how Cuomo became obsessed with the fawning coverage he got last year, so much so that he would have staff members monitor coverage to see who was saying what about him. One of his accusers, Charlotte Bennett, has said she believes the media’s fawning adulation of Cuomo last year emboldened him to be an even worse person, because he began to believe he was untouchable.
While it’s good to see Cuomo finally getting his just deserts, the mea culpas from some in the media for how they as an industry behaved last year in regards to Cuomo have been a welcome sight to behold as well. CNN, however, still has much to answer for in the court of public opinion for their significant role in propping up Cuomo as the magnificent leader of the pandemic. It really and truly is one of the biggest media scandals I’ve seen in my lifetime and to this day, they still see no issue with what they did and, to a great extent, continue to do.