Background & Political Philosophy
Andrew Cuomo was born on December 6, 1957 in Queens, New York. His father, Mario Cuomo, was an attorney who would later serve as governor of New York State, from 1983-94.
In 1977, Andrew, who was attending Fordham University, managed his father’s New York City mayoral campaign against Ed Koch, the eventual winner. After graduating from Fordham in 1979, Cuomo earned a J.D. at Albany Law School in 1982. That same year, he managed his father’s winning gubernatorial campaign and subsequently took a job as senior adviser to the governor in the state Capitol.
In 1984 Andrew Cuomo left Albany and became an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. He later joined a private law firm and, in 1986, founded the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged, a nonprofit group that brought together government agencies and private developers to construct housing for the homeless.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Cuomo to replace Henry Cisneros as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In this role, Cuomo was instrumental in forcing lending institutions—including the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—to dramatically increase their approval rates for mortgage loans to undercapitalized minority applicants who failed to meet traditional borrowing criteria. (Many of these were subprime loans, which ultimately helped trigger the housing-market crisis of 2008.) At a 1998 press conference, Cuomo bragged about having reached a multi-billion-dollar settlement with a major lender, even as he acknowledged that many of the mandated loans would never be paid back.
In 2002 Cuomo returned to New York and made an unsuccessful run for governor. The following year, his bitter separation from his wife, Kerry Kennedy, left Cuomo’s political future in doubt.
As he geared up for a return to the world of politics, Cuomo in 2003 publicly laid bare his political values and vision. Lamenting “the widening gulf between the wealthy and everyone else,” he declared that “true Democrats” are “aggressive progressives” who pursue “social justice, economic justice, and racial justice” by continuously “challeng[ing] the status quo, norms, and biases.” This approach, said Cuomo, was a prerequisite to the creation of “a purely just and compassionate society … where no child sleeps in poverty, where there are no victims of discrimination, where everyone has clean, decent and affordable housing, where each child receives a high-quality public education, [and] where there is a safety net for people who require assistance.”
Also in 2003, Cuomo, viewing the United States as a nation rife with racism and inequity, said that “our housing stock remains largely segregated, as do our schools,” chiefly because of persistent discrimination.
When New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer ran for governor in 2006, Cuomo won Spitzer’s vacated seat by defeating Republican Jeanine Pirro, former Westchester County district attorney. A key supporter of Cuomo’s campaign was the Service Employees International Union Local 1199.
In 2010, Cuomo was elected governor of New York State, easily defeating Republican opponent Carl Paladino. While campaigning, Cuomo accepted the endorsement of the Working Families Party, an ACORN front group.
In 2011 Cuomo created a Minority- and Women-Owned Business Task Force, dedicated to doubling the number of state contracts awarded to nonwhite- and female-headed business enterprises. He also hailed the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, which, Cuomo said, would “gran[t] same-sex couples the freedom to marry under the law, and the hundreds of accompanying rights, benefits, and protections that have previously been limited to married couples of the opposite sex.”
In the aftermath of the December 14, 2012 shootings that killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Cuomo urged his state legislature to enact the strictest gun laws in the nation. Among the provisions Cuomo advocated were: “close the private sale loophole by requiring federal background checks”; “enact tougher penalties for illegal gun use”; and “create a state check on all ammunition purchases.” Demanding also a “ban high-capacity magazines,” Cuomo sought to outlaw any magazines holding more than 7 rounds. “No one hunts with an assault rifle,” the governor shouted. “No one needs ten bullets to kill a deer! Too many innocent people have died already! End the madness now!” Cuomo’s legislation (known as the Safe Act) subsequently had to be revised, however, when the governor learned that seven-round magazines did not exist; thus he consented to making ten-round magazines legal in New York. He stipulated, however, that gun owners would not be permitted to load more than seven rounds into those magazines. Magazines holding more than ten rounds would have to be modified, discarded, or sold to an out-of-state dealer by January 15, 2014.
Cuomo’s Positions on Various Key Issues
By Cuomo’s reckoning, “economic justice” requires that “anyone who works full-time should live above poverty.” Thus has the governor long decried “a system that is stacked in favor of the privileged few who have the wherewithal and access to put their narrow interests above the public’s interest.” As a means of serving that interest, Cuomo in 2013 proposed raising the state’s minimum wage from an “unlivable” $7.25-per-hour to $8.75-per-hour, because “it’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do, [and] it is long overdue.” Later that year, the governor called for a $9.00-per-hour minimum wage, coupled with a “minimum wage reimbursement credit” that would use public funds to cover more than three-fourths of the pay increase. By February 2015, he was advocating an “anti-poverty plan” that featured a statewide minimum wage of $10.50-per-hour, and $11.50 in New York City. “The New York City market is arguably the most expensive in the United States of America,” said Cuomo, “and it is a much more expensive market than other parts of the state, so it makes sense to me to have a two-tiered minimum wage.”
In July 2015, Cuomo praised the New York Wage Board’s unanimous decision to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15-per-hour by the end of 2018 in New York City, and by 2021 in the rest of the state. The three-member board had been formed two months earlier at Cuomo’s behest, after the state legislature had rejected the governor’s proposals for minimum wage increases for most workers. Lauding the decision as an “inspirational” and “progressive” move, Cuomo said at a rally celebrating the vote: “This is going to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, but this is going to do something else. Because when New York acts, the rest of the states follow…. This is one of the really great days of my administration.” He later posted the following message on Twitter: “You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 in the State of NY, period. That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage.”
In 2013 Cuomo called for the passage of a Women’s Equality Act which would “shatter the glass ceiling by passing a real equal pay law—treble damages for underpayment or discrimination”; “end family status discrimination”; and “protect a woman’s freedom of choice.” That same year, the governor—who supports federal funding for abortion services—sought to pass a bill that would have: (a) radically expanded abortion-on-demand for reasons of “health”; (b) overturned a law barring abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was at risk; and (c) authorized licensed healthcare practitioners, and not only physicians, to perform abortions. The bill died in the state senate.
Complaining that “stop-and-frisk” police policies routinely “stigmatize” and “criminalize” young, “predominately black and Hispanic males,” Cuomo maintains that the practice “must end now.” Calling for “newer and more effective [criminal-justice] methods” that place “a greater emphasis on prevention and on community-based alternatives to incarceration,” Cuomo in 2012 boasted that New York had “eliminated over 3,800 prison beds and 370 juvenile facility beds—because we finally accepted that prisons are not an economic development program.” “Incarcerating low- to medium-risk juveniles actually increases the likelihood of future offending,” he added.
Echoing the positions of the National Education Association and other pro-Democrat teachers unions, Cuomo favors universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. He also believes that private-school voucher programs—which permit parents to divert a portion of their tax liabilities away from the public-school system, and to use those funds instead to help cover the tuition costs for private schools to which they might prefer to send their children—“threaten to undermine our existing public schools” by siphoning money away from them.
On the business/environmental front, Cuomo believes that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity contribute to potentially catastrophic global warming. To address this issue, he advocates the implementation of a cap-and-trade system that would impose taxes on companies whose emissions are deemed excessive. Cuomo also champions the principles of “environmental justice”—i.e., the elimination of sources of pollution (such as large bus depots or hazardous-waste landfills) from neighborhoods where they “have a disproportionate impact” on “racial and ethnic minority and low-income populations.”
Cuomo favors “a system of public funding of elections” that would “set limits on campaign spending and increase participation by candidates who otherwise would lack the means or connections to raise campaign funds.”
He also supports a single-payer, government-run healthcare system, and emphasizes government’s duty to “provide social safety net services, such as food and shelter, to those in need.” In 2012, for instance, Cuomo said: “We must increase participation in the food stamp program, remove barriers to participation, and eliminate the stigma associated with this program. And we must stop fingerprinting for food”—a reference to the fingerprinting of food stamp recipients as a means of preventing fraud.
Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” Program
In his 2012 “State of the State” address, Cuomo announced the implementation of his so-called “Buffalo Billion” program, a New York state government initiative slated to invest approximately $1 billion of taxpayer funds in construction projects around the Buffalo, New York area, in an effort to stimulate economic development in the region. Cuomo placed Alain Kaloyeros — the founding president and chief executive officer of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica — in control of most of the Buffalo Billion initiative. Kaloyeros, in turn, rigged the bidding process to ensure that certain preferred builders were awarded major contracts under the program. The most noteworthy of those projects was SolarCity RiverBend, a solar-panel factory that was projected to become the largest manufacturing facility in North America. Kaloyeros arranged for LP Ciminelli, a Buffalo-based construction company owned by Lou Ciminelli — a major political donor to Cuomo — to win the $750 million state contract for the RiverBend project. As a result of his participation in this bid-rigging scheme, Ciminelli was eventually (in July 2018) convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. That December, a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced him to two years and four months in federal prison and ordered him to pay a $500,000 fine. Kaloyeros, meanwhile, was likewise found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in July 2018, and in December he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. As for the SolarCity RiverBend project, it failed financially and was taken over by Elon Musk’s clean-energy company Tesla, which as of 2018 was shuttering solar-panel installation facilities across the United States and cutting its investments in residential solar, leaving the future of the Buffalo plant on shaky footing. As of July 2018, the facility had only 600 active workers on site.
Governor Cuomo has also saddled New York State taxpayers with such additional boondoggles as these:
- In 2014, New York “partnered” with Soraa, a California-based light-bulb company, to construct a $90 million, 82,000-square-foot factory outside of Syracuse which was expected to employ hundreds of workers. In an enormously one-sided agreement, Soraa was not required to spend any of its own money to build or equip the factory; the company was assured that it would not be penalized in any way if it failed to occupy the building or to create the expected jobs; and if it did occupy the building, the company would be permitted to lease the factory for ten years at a rate of $1 per month. At the last moment, in December 2017, Soraa elected not to sign the lease and backed out of the deal, meaning that New York taxpayers had just spent $90 million to build a massive empty factory. In a desperate effort to find a tenant for that space, Cuomo agreed to spend an additional $15 million in taxpayer funds to convert the new building so that NexGen Power Systems could use it.
- In 2015, Cuomo announced that New York State was investing nearly $600 million in the construction of a computer chip factory in Utica, to be run by the Austrian technology company AMS. But six months after an ostentatious groundbreaking ceremony in which Cuomo himself participated, AMS backed out of the agreement, and the factory was never completed.
- In 2014, Cuomo pledged nearly $15 million of public money to create the Syracuse Film Hub, a 52,000-square-foot facility built by Cor Development — whose executive Steve Aiello was convicted of bribery and bid-rigging crimes along with former top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, the latter of whom accepted some $300,000 in bribes from upstate developers with business before the state. Prior to launching the Film Hub project, Cuomo did not consult with film-industry experts. As a result, he did not understand that the location he had selected for the new facility was a poor choice. As Syracuse University media and film professor Larry Elin later put it: “It’s literally out in the middle of nowhere. We at Newhouse [School of Public Communications] would love to have access to the stage for our classes, but it is such a hassle to get out there with 20 students.” The Film Hub project resulted in financial failure.
- In 2013, Cuomo approved a $47 million marketing campaign to promote his START-UP NY initiative, which aimed to establish tax-free zones for new companies in financially depressed areas. But after four years of operation, the program had created a mere 722 new net jobs.
- In 2017, Cuomo designated at least $216 million for the “Harbor of Lights” project to decorate New York City bridges with lights that could be programmed to blink and change color in harmony. Approximately $6 million of that total was spent on lights for the grand opening of the new Kosciuszko Bridge in April 2017, an event to which the governor was transported in former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard limousine. The vehicle underwent a $10,000 restoration process, just to prepare it for the occasion.
The Moreland Commission Scandal
With New York’s state government in Albany rocked by what The New York Times described as “a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests,” Governor Cuomo in July 2013 ceremoniously appointed a high-powered panel known as the Moreland Commission to root out corruption in state politics over the next 18 months. Cuomo pledged that the commission would be “totally independent” and unhindered in its investigation: “Anything they want to look at, they can look at—me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman.”
But barely two months into their probe, the commission’s investigators, while looking for possible violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to Buying Time, a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party. At the time, the commission members did not realize that Cuomo himself was a client of Buying Time, which had produced ads for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
When the governor’s most senior aide, Lawrence Schwartz, learned of the subpoena soon after it had been issued, he called one of the Moreland Commission’s three co-chairs, Syracuse district attorney William Fitzpatrick, and ordered him withdraw the subpoena. Fitzpatrick complied with Schwartz’s demand, but others on the commission were outraged by what they perceived as an egregious level of interference with their work.
“The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission … was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office,” said the Times. Indeed, a three-month investigation by the newspaper—wherein hundreds of emails, subpoenas and internal documents were reviewed, and dozens of commission members, employees, legislative staff members and other officials were interviewed—found that: “[T]he governor’s office [had] deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him…. Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission.”
On one occasion, said the Times, “Schwartz specifically told the commission’s co-chairs that the governor himself was off limits” to their investigation. And “never far from the action was Mr. Cuomo himself,” the paper emphasized, “making the most of the levers of power at his disposal and operating behind closed doors in ways that sometimes appeared at odds with his public statements.”
These intrusions into the commission’s work caused a great deal of dissension and animosity among its members, some of whom were convinced that a Cuomo appointee was secretly monitoring their communications. Notably, few of the individuals interviewed by the Times agreed to be quoted by name, for fear of retribution by the governor or his aides.
Ultimately, Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission after just 9 months. “The thing that bothered me the most is we were created with all this fanfare and the governor was going to clean up Albany,” said Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters of New York State and a special adviser to the commission. “And it became purely a vehicle for the governor to get legislation. Another notch for his re-election campaign. That was it.”
A highly noteworthy individual who influenced Cuomo’s decision to shut down the Moreland Commission was Sheldon Silver, the powerful and notoriously corrupt Speaker of the New York State Assembly. According to the Daily Mail: “[The commission] was investigating Silver’s financial dealings and those of his colleagues. Silver had fought the commission’s subpoenas and refused to provide information about his outside legal work.” On January 22, 2015—just a day after Silver had shared the stage with Cuomo during the governor’s annual State of the State address, Silver was arrested and charged in federal court with having taken more than $6 million in bribes and kickbacks disguised as legal fees.
Cuomo was unapologetic about his decision to disband the Moreland Commission. “It’s my commission,” he declared matter-of-factly. “My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”
Cuomo Orders State Government Emails to Be Purged After 3 Months
In June 2013 — a month before Cuomo created the aforementioned, short-lived Moreland Commission to investigate the corruption in which Albany was engulfed — the governor’s administration had quietly instituted a policy whereby state workers’ e-mails were to be automatically deleted from the government’s digital archives 90 days after they were transmitted, even though the state’s e-mail software was capable of storing approximately 30 years’ worth of messages for every state employee. Critics pointed out that such a policy could cause important or even incriminating information to be prematurely and permanently erased.
Dick Dadey, head of the civic watchdog group Citizens Union, was one of 20 advocates who condemned the policy in a letter to Cuomo. Said Dadey: “A 90-day e-mail retention policy flies in the face of [Gov. Cuomo’s] promise to have the most transparent and accountable state government in history. It can result in hiding a lot of state-government activity that should be known to the public.” Similarly, John Kaehny of the government-transparency group Reinvent Albany said: “Whether intentional or not, the 90-day deletion policy creates a new loophole: State employees can ‘forget’ to save potentially embarrassing e-mails knowing they will be automatically destroyed. A state employee doesn’t have to actively destroy an e-mail — and risk potential charges of destroying evidence or obstruction of justice — they can just forget to save that e-mail, which is not a crime.”
Following some 20 months of inconsistent compliance with Cuomo’s email-deletion mandate, in February 2015 New York’s chief information officer, Maggie Miller, issued a memo demanding that the governor’s policy be followed strictly. In response to this directive, thousands of rank-and-file workers’ e-mail messages were purged from the state’s computer system.
Smearing “Extreme Conservatives” As Racist & Intolerant
In a January 17, 2014 radio interview, Cuomo stated that conservative Republicans were in the midst of a schism against moderate members of their own party. Said Cuomo: “Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
In a speech that he delivered at a bill-signing event on April 12, 2018, Cuomo made the following disparaging remarks about the alleged racism and intolerance of conservatives:
“[T]here is an extreme conservative movement that is sweeping this nation. And these are frightening times…. And it just keeps getting worse…. This is an extreme conservative [Trump] administration…. This is a different level of conservatism that we haven’t seen before, and they make it very clear…. They are anti-New York. They are anti-immigrant. They are anti-working men and women. They are anti-union.”
“What was the first thing [Trump] did when he got in office, first thing? Passed a tax cut, $1.5 trillion – 80 percent goes to the richest 1 percent of America and the corporations. And then he says, ‘Well, maybe the corporations will then pass it on to the workers.’ Maybe there’s a Santa Clause. It’s possible. But if what you really wanted to do was help the middle-class, you would have helped the middle-class, you would have raised their wages.”
“Then we showed the extreme conservative movement that they are taking us back, and we are not going back, we are going forward. We are going to expose their hypocrisy and how dangerous they are. They’re anti-immigrant. First, there is no greater case of hypocrisy than them being anti-immigrant. Unless you are a Native American, Apache, Sioux, Comanche, you are an immigrant. And they are not Native Americans. You want talk about undocumented and the way they torture the DACA children. I’m an Italian-American, I came from poor Italian-Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian-Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what wop stood for? Without papers. I’m undocumented. You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me, because I’m an undocumented person.”
“When you attack immigrants, and you try to pit us together, by religion, by color of skin, by race, they are spreading a social cancer in this country. Nobody can beat America, but what you can do is create Americans fighting other Americans. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. You have more neo-Nazi groups created in the past two years than the previous 20. We have more anti-Semitic actions in New York than we’ve had in the past decade. They are doing that. They are spreading hate and division. They think divide and conquer. Well not here, my friends. Because we know diversity is our greatest strength, it’s what makes us beautiful….”
Funding College Education for Prison Inmates
On February 16, 2014, Cuomo announced the launch of a new statewide program to fund college-level courses at ten New York State prisons, giving inmates an opportunity to earn college degrees while serving their sentences. Said the governor in a press release: “Giving men and women in prison the opportunity to earn a college degree costs our state less and benefits our society more. New York State currently spends $60,000 per year on every prisoner in our system, and those who leave have a 40 percent chance of ending up back behind bars. Existing programs show that providing a college education in our prisons is much cheaper for the state and delivers far better results.”
Cutting a Deal with the Working Families Party
As Cuomo prepared for his re-election bid in 2014, he aggressively pursued — and received — the endorsement of the politically influential Working Families Party. To achieve that result, Cuomo cut a deal with WFP in which, as The New York Times put it, the governor “promis[ed] to pursue a raft of progressive goals” that were important to WFP. In exchange for that pledge, WFP agreed to give its spot on the upcoming November ballot to Cuomo, rather than field another candidate of its own and thereby siphon many potential votes away from Cuomo.
Honoring & Praising Al Sharpton
Cuomo spent approximately 30 minutes at Al Sharpton‘s 60th birthday celebration at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City on October 1, 2014. “He [Sharpton] has grown immensely over the years,” Cuomo told the crowd. “And he’s no longer just New York’s Al Sharpton. He’s the nation’s Rev. Sharpton—and the nation is better for it.”
In early December 2015, Cuomo called in to Al Sharpton’s radio program, recited the latter’s famous slogan of “no justice, no peace,” and praised Sharpton for having allegedly helped to “calm the waters” in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict anyone in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black New Yorker who died in a July 2014 confrontation with several NYPD officers. In fact, the Garner grand jury decision led to a massive protest movement in cities across the United States, and Sharpton himself participated in a number of the demonstrations. On August 24, 2014, for instance, he led at least 2,500 marchers in a rally condemning “a society where police are automatically excused” for wrongdoing.
On November 4, 2014, Cuomo was reelected as governor of New York State, defeating Republican challenger Rob Astorino by a 54-to-41 percent margin. Just a few days later, it was revealed that the state’s Senate Republican leader, Dean Skelos, had spent months secretly working to help Cuomo win re-election — in part by persuading Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a key influential Republican, to endorse Cuomo in October. In exchange for Skelos’s help, Cuomo agreed to refrain from campaigning on behalf of Democratic state senate candidates on Long Island. As the New York Post reported: “If the governor made any appearance on behalf of a Democratic candidate on Long Island, it was a token in-and-out visit, with no follow-up and virtually no financial support, observers said.”
Meeting With Jay Z Regarding NYPD Law Enforcement
On December 10, 2014, Cuomo held a policy meeting in his midtown Manhattan office with music mogul Jay Z on the subject of how New York police should enforce the laws. The governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, described the meeting as “a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and how we can all work together to pass a reform package.”
Cuomo Orders Insurance Companies to Pay for Gender Reassignment Surgeries
In December 2014, Cuomo announced that healthcare insurers could no longer deny coverage of gender reassignment surgery or other sex-change procedures for transgender New Yorkers. At the governor’s direction, the state Department of Financial Services (DFS) informed insurers that they “may not deny medically necessary treatment otherwise covered by a health insurance policy solely on the basis that the treatment is for gender dysphoria.” Classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person identifies with a gender that conflicts with the physical gender he or she was born with. Because New York state law requires insurance companies to cover the treatment of psychological disorders, said the DFS, patients with gender dysphoria were entitled to coverage for treatments such as surgery or hormone therapy. “Respecting the rights and dignity of all New Yorkers is paramount,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By taking this action, we are ensuring that principle rightfully extends to transgender people across our state.”
Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State
In December 2014, the Cuomo administration announced that it had decided to ban hydraulic fracturing after a long-awaited report concluded that the oil and gas extraction method posed health risks. As a result of this decision, New York became only the second U.S. state — following Vermont — to completely prohibit fracking. Cuomo’s ban was instituted in spite of the fact that New York State sits atop a portion of the Marcellus shale, one of America’s largest natural gas deposits.
Cuomo Proposes That Almost All Offenders Under 17 Be Tried As Juveniles
In March 2015, Cuomo proposed that among 16- and 17-year-old offenders, all but the most violent should be tried as juveniles rather than as adults. To justify his position, the governor cited research indicating that adolescents lack the decision-making abilities of adults, and other research suggesting that young people are more likely to give up their criminal activity if treated as juveniles.
New York State’s Enormous Tax Burden under Cuomo
In April 2015, it was reported that according to the annual survey by TaxFoundation.org, New York ranked 50th—dead last among all U.S. states—in terms of the tax burden borne by its residents. This included rankings of 45th in unemployment-insurance taxes, 49th in individual income taxes, and 45th in property taxes.
A separate survey, completed in 2013 by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, ranked New York 50th in terms of the personal and economic freedom enjoyed by its residents. And a third study—the Thumbtack Survey of over 12,000 small businesses conducted in 2014—gave New York a grade of D+ on small-business friendliness, and a D on the difficulty of starting a business.
Banning “Non-Essential” State Travel to North Carolina, As Protest Regarding LGBT Rights
In March 2016, Cuomo took exception to a North Carolina law that directed all public institutions in that state to offer only men’s and women’s restrooms (or alternatively, single-occupancy restrooms or family restrooms), but not the so-called gender-neutral restrooms that transgender advocates were demanding across the country. Thus the governor issued an executive order banning all “non-essential” government travel to North Carolina. Said Cuomo’s order: “In New York, we believe that all people—regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation—deserve the same rights and protections under the law. From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community, and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past. As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state.”
Cuomo Signs Minimum Wage & Paid Leave Bill
On April 4, 2016, Cuomo signed legislation enacting a statewide $15 minimum wage plan and a 12-week paid family leave policy. Said the governor: “By moving to a $15 statewide minimum wage and enacting the strongest paid family leave policy in the nation, New York is showing the way forward on economic justice. These policies will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers and their families, but ensure fairness for future generations and enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity. I am proud to sign these programs into law, because they will ensure a stronger, fairer and brighter future for all New Yorkers.”
Cuomo Commutes Prison Sentence of Radical Who Participated in Deadly Robbery
On December 30, 2016, Governor Cuomo commuted the 75-years-to-life prison sentence of former Weather Underground terrorist Judith Clark, who, on October 20, 1981, had driven a getaway car during the deadly $1.6 million Brink’s armored-car robbery that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard. Due to the commutation, Clark would become eligible for parole in early 2017, rather than in 2056 as her sentence stipulated. In announcing the decision, Cuomo’s office noted that Clark had: (a) “received one of the longest sentences of her six co-defendants, the majority of whom are either deceased or no longer in custody,” and (b) “received the same sentence as one of the known shooters.” Moreover, the governor’s office said that Clark had been a model prisoner during the preceding 35 years.
On January 3, 2017, Cuomo proposed that all students who have been accepted to any state or city college or university in New York State should be eligible for free tuition (funded entirely by tax dollars), provided they or their families do not earn more then $125,000 per year. Regarding the high levels of debt with which many students leave college, Cuomo said: “It’s like starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg.” “This society should say, ‘We’re going to pay for college because you need college to be successful,’” he added. “And New York State — New York State is going to do something about it.”
Cuomo Extols the Virtues of Diversity by Identifying Himself As a Member of Various Demographic Groups
On January 29, 2017, Cuomo delivered a speech in which he said: “As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. I am a Jew. I am Black. I am gay. I am a woman seeking to control her body. We are one New York.”
Cuomo Unveils Proposal to Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
On January 2, 2018, Cuomo said in a statement: “2017 brought a long overdue reckoning where the secret and pervasive poison of workplace sexual harassment was exposed by brave women and men who said, ‘This ends now.’ Our challenge in government is to turn society’s revulsion into reform, and we in New York must seize the moment and lead the way. There must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in any workplace, and we can and will end the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled harassment for far too long.”
Moreover, Cuomo’s GovernorNY.gov website said:
“Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to prevent taxpayer funds from being used for settlements against individuals relating to sexual assault and harassment and to ensure that individual harassers are held accountable.
“To further ensure accountability, the Governor proposes a uniform code of sexual harassment policies binding on all branches of state and local government and an independent and anonymous whistleblower process to help individuals to communicate complaints across state and local government without fear of retribution or consequence. To help bring justice to victims of sexual harassment, Governor Cuomo also proposes legislation that would void forced arbitration policies or clauses in employee contracts that prevent sexual harassment cases from consideration in law enforcement investigation and court trials.
“To combat the culture of silence that too often shields abusers from accountability, Governor Cuomo will take a series of actions to promote transparency while simultaneously protecting survivors’ identity and privacy. Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to prohibit confidentiality agreements relating to sexual assault or harassment for all public entities and branches of government — state and local — unless it is the express preference of the victim. In addition, Governor Cuomo proposes mandatory annual reporting for any companies that do business with the State that will require disclosure of the number of sexual harassment violations and nondisclosure agreements executed by that company. These measures will ensure that all employees are provided with a safer work environment, to which they all should be entitled.”
Cuomo Confidant Convicted of Three Felonies
On March 13, 2018, longtime Cuomo confidant Joseph Percoco, who had served as campaign manager for Cuomo’s two gubernatorial runs and as executive deputy secretary during much of his tenure as governor, was convicted of three felony charges – two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of solicitation of bribes or gratuities – in connection with accepting some $315,000 in payments from companies that were seeking favorable treatment by the New York State government. As the Journal News reported: “He was accused of accepting $315,000 in payments from Competitive Power Ventures and Cor Development, a pair of businesses that leaned on him to take state actions that benefited their various projects.”
Pledge to Restore Voting Rights to Felons
At the annual convention of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in April 2018, Cuomo announced his intent to restore voting rights to felons on parole – a decision that would affect not only the state’s existing 35,000 parolees, but also any new convicted felons who might enter the parole system thereafter. “The move amounts to a legal sidestep of the State Legislature,” reported The New York Times, “where the Republican-controlled Senate has opposed many of Mr. Cuomo’s proposed criminal justice reforms. It does not change state law, which currently bars convicted felons from voting unless they are on probation or have completed parole.” “I’m unwilling to take no for an answer,” said Cuomo. “I’m going to make it law by executive order…. With active intervention, we can bend the arc toward justice.”
On May 22, 2018, Cuomo announced that, in keeping with his April pledge, he had now issued conditional pardons to 24,086 of the state’s 35,000 parolees. Reported the Daily Mail: “The pardons are the first round in Cuomo’s effort to restore voting rights to people who have served their time in prison but still can’t vote because they remain on parole.” Said Cuomo: “The right to vote is fundamental and it is unconscionable to deny that basic right of citizenship to New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society.”
Vows to Block Oil & Gas Drilling off Coast of New York
In May 2018, Cuomo passionately articulated his commitment to banning oil and gas drilling off the coast of New York State. “I’m going to commission the citizen fleet from throughout the state to go out and interfere with their federal effort just as Winston Churchill did in Dunkirk,” the governor said at a press conference in Battery Park. “If you think I’m kidding, I’m not, and I’m going to lead that citizen fleet.”
Vows to Sue if Supreme Court Rolls Back Roe v. Wade
In July 2018, Cuomo pledged to sue if the Supreme Court were to back Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Said the governor: “We now need to codify Roe v. Wade, which will actually increase the protections in New York. God forbid they do what they intend to do, which is overturn Roe v. Wade. I want to get it done before the Supreme Court does that, because I don’t want any gap in a woman’s right to protection, and we have a better legal case when the Supreme Court acts because I will sue when the Supreme Court acts.”
Cuomo Says That America “Was Never That Great”
In a speech he delivered during a bill-signing event on August 15, 2018, Cuomo — deriding President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — said: “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness, we will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged, we will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women, 51 percent of our population, is gone and every woman’s full potential is realized and unleashed and every woman is making her full contribution.”
Accepting Donations from Political Appointees
In July 2018, Seth Barron, associate editor of the City Journal and project director of the Manhattan Institute’s NYC Initiative, wrote: “Despite a 2007 executive order forbidding political appointees from donating to the governor who appointed them, Cuomo has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from such appointees and hundreds of thousands more from their wives, children and associated business entities. His office has shrugged off suggestions that state government appears to be stocked with individuals who pay for their posts, saying that the original order is inapplicable in most of the cases in question.”
Cuomo Signs Bill Legalizing Late-Term Abortion for Any Reason
In January 2019 Cuomo signed the so-called Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which not only allowed abortions to be performed on unborn babies at any point in a pregnancy — right up until the mother’s due date — but also permitted non-doctors to perform the procedure. Previously in New York State, abortions after the 24th week of gestation had been permitted only in cases where the mother’s life was in danger because of the pregnancy. But the RHA now added a broad “health” exception for late-term abortions — including for reasons like economic, social and emotional factors. It also redefined a “person” as “a human being who has been born and is alive”; it characterized abortion as a “fundamental right”; and it repealed protections for babies that initially survive an abortion procedure. As he signed the legislation in the state Capitol’s Red Room, which was packed with supporters, those in attendance erupted with thunderous applause. That same day, Cuomo issued a directive calling for the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge, the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany, and the 408-foot spire atop the One World Trade Center building to be lit pink to “celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.”
In February 2019, Cuomo defended his passage of the new law by asserting, among other things, “I was educated in religious schools, and I am a former altar boy.” He also penned an op-ed in the New York Times, where he wrote: “My Roman Catholic values are my personal values. The decisions I choose to make in my life, or in counseling my daughters, are based on my personal moral and religious beliefs. My oath of office is to the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of New York – not to the Catholic Church.” The governor also referred to the Catholic Church as “anti-choice,” and added that “most Americans, including most Catholics, are pro-choice.”
Cuomo’s “Green New Deal”
In January 2019, Cuomo unveiled an environmental/energy plan similar to that of Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Cuomo’s version of a Green New Deal set a goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity statewide by the year 2040. “Under the auspices of the proposal,” reported The Daily Caller, “New York’s power market would need to hit a number of benchmarks in order to completely erase its carbon footprint. Such goals include: quadrupling the state’s offshore wind mandate to 9,000 megawatts by 2035; doubling its solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025; dramatically increasing land-based wind and solar development; and upgrading its energy storage capabilities.”
Cuomo Signs Bail-Reform Measure, Which Proves to Have Horrific Consequences
In March 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law — as part of New York State’s 2020 budget deal — a criminal-justice reform measure that would allow most criminal suspects charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to walk free without having to post bail. As the New York Post reported:
“Lawmakers agreed to eliminate cash bail for low-level crimes as part of a package of criminal-justice reform measures tucked into the budget bills after earlier attempts to get them through the Legislature failed. Other measures aim to reduce the amount of time before cases are brought to trial and will prevent prosecutors from withholding evidence until the day a trial begins. Defendants will also be allowed to review whatever evidence the prosecution has before pleading guilty.”
The new law was slated to cover hundreds of different offenses. Among the “nonviolent” felonies under its purview were drug trafficking and home burglary. Moreover, nearly 900 New York City residents who had already been placed in jail because of their failure to make bail payments, would be released starting mid-December of 2019.
The negative consequences of bail reform became particularly apparent when a number of U.S. cities were overrun by violent riots in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being abused by a white police officer in Minneapolis. New York City in particular was the scene of massive rioting, looting, and vandalism. But most of those who took part in the mayhem were immune from incarceration because of the no-bail law. As the New York Post explained: “Right now, anyone arrested for looting gets rapidly released, with no need to post bail to avoid jail until trial…. [The imposition of bail] requires that the use of a ‘dangerous instrument’ be part of the alleged crime. And the ruling from the state’s top court is clear: Someone has to be on the other side of the window when you throw a brick through it. If no one’s there, it’s not a weapon, and jail/bail is off the table.”
New York State Allows Illegal Aliens to Obtain Driver’s Licenses
In June 2019, Cuomo signed into law the so-called “Green Light” bill, which not only made it possible to apply for a driver’s license in New York State without a Social Security Number, but also made foreign documentation sufficient for the purpose of obtaining a license. When the bill went into effect in December 2019, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman said in a statement: “This will protect criminals at the expense of the safety and security of law-abiding New York residents. Besides giving drivers licenses to hundreds of thousands of people who broke our laws and have come to our country illegally, the New York law also blocks DHS law enforcement officers who investigate crimes like child exploitation, human trafficking, terrorism, the targeting of gang members, sex offenders, and drug smuggling, from accessing important public record.” A spokeswoman for the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) confirmed that, under the new law, the state would not share data with federal immigration authorities “unless the DMV is presented with a valid judge-signed court order, subpoena or judicial warrant.”
The Cuomo administration made it clear individual DMV clerks who opposed the law could not choose to disregard it. As DMV spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian said in a statement: “Local officials, including the county clerks who run DMV offices, cannot choose which laws they like and which they will disregard. If a clerk is unwilling to follow state law, he or she should resign their office.”
Cuomo Bars Teachers from Being Armed in the Classroom
On July 31, 2019, Cuomo signed a bill preventing New York State teachers from being armed with firearms for classroom defense. In a statement regarding the newly signed prohibition, the governor said: “The answer to the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country has never been and never will be more guns.”
Cuomo Splits from Longtime Girlfriend
In September 2019, Cuomo and and his girlfriend of 14 years, 53-year-old Sandra Lee, announced that they had ended their “romantic relationship.”
Cuomo’s Contempt for Donald Trump, From Whom He Had Previously Accepted at Least $64,000 in Donations
When President Trump announced in an October 2019 tweet that he would be moving his private residence from New York State to Florida, Cuomo replied with a tweet of his own, saying: “Good riddance. It’s not like @realDonaldTrump paid taxes here anyway… He’s all yours, Florida.” Notably, Cuomo had previously accepted approximately $64,000 in political contributions from Trump, back when Trump was still a Democrat.
Cuomo Says Superstorms Did Not Exist Before Anthropogenic Climate Change
In a November 2019 appearance on the MSNBC program Live, Governor Cuomo, while discussing recent flooding that New York State had experienced, claimed that extreme weather events were becoming more commonplace because of man-made climate change:
“Anyone who questions extreme weather and climate change is just delusional at this point. We have seen in the state of New York what every one has seen. We see these weather patterns that we never had before. We didn’t have hurricanes. We didn’t have superstorms. We didn’t have tornadoes. This is a storm that came up just overnight, dropped about five inches of rain, and it was literally a matter of life or death for people…. [T]his is a recurring pattern, and anyone who is still in denial is making a very serious mistake.”
Cuomo Condemns Work and ID Requirements for Recipients of Public Assistance
When the Trump administration announced in December 2019 that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly known as “food stamps” — would thenceforth require able-bodied adult beneficiaries without children to work at least 20 hours per week while receiving public funds, Cuomo characterized the change as “cold, heartless and despicable.” “With this rule change,” he said, “President Trump is using a federal agency he controls to continue his egregious assault on those Americans most in need.”
Cuomo’s $6.1 Billion Budget Deficit
As of December 2019, New York State had a massive $6.1 billion budget deficit caused mostly by rising Medicaid costs. The size of the deficit was even more remarkable in light of the fact that: (a) the U.S. was experiencing its strongest economic period in decades, and (b) tax revenues to New York were at historic highs.
Cuomo & the Coronavirus Pandemic & Nursing Home Scandal of 2020-2021
Ordering the Release of 1,100 Parole Violators from Jails over Coronavirus Concerns
On March 27, 2020 — while the U.S. and most other nations were battling a deadly coronavirus pandemic — Cuomo, citing concerns over inmates contracting the coronavirus in prison, ordered the release of approximately 1,100 parole violators across New York State. “We’re releasing people who are in jails because they violated parole for non-serious reasons,” said the governor. “And wherever we can get people out of jails, out of prisons, now, we are.”
Condemning Racial Disparities in Coronavirus Death Rates
In April 2020, Cuomo reacted with outrage to a report indicating that blacks and Hispanics in New York City were dying from the COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, at rates that were disproportionately higher than those of whites. Specifically: Hispanics, who represented 29% of the city’s population, accounted for 34% of its fatalities from COVID-19; blacks, who were 22% of the population, accounted for 28% of the fatalities; and whites, who were 32% of the population, accounted for 27% of the fatalities. Notably, Cuomo said nothing about the fact that Asians — who accounted for 17% of the population but just 7% of the fatalities — were far less likely than whites to have died from COVID-19. “Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price?” said Cuomo. “Let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s do the research and learn from this moment. Let’s learn from these moments and let’s do it now. We are going to do more testing in minority communities, but not just testing for the virus. Let’s actually get research and data that can inform us as to why we are having more people in minority communities, more people in certain neighborhoods, why do they have higher rates of infection.”
During Coronavirus Pandemic, Cuomo Complains of Ventilator Shortage — Which He Had Failed to Address Years Earlier
As the coronavirus pandemic hit New York harder than any other state in the country in the spring of 2020, Cuomo repeatedly complained that the federal government was not providing his state with enough ventilators to meet the needs of its residents. But Cuomo himself could have prepared years earlier for that need, but he chose not to. As historian Betsy McCaughey, the former Lieutenant Governor of New York, explained on March 19, 2020:
“Several years ago, after learning that the Empire State’s stockpile of medical equipment had 16,000 fewer ventilators than the 18,000 New Yorkers would need in a severe pandemic, state public-health leaders came to a fork in the road. They could have chosen to buy more ventilators to back up the supplies hospitals maintain. Instead, the health commissioner, Howard Zucker, assembled a task force for rationing the ventilators they already had.
“In 2015, that task force came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short. Patients assigned a red code will have highest access, and other patients will be assigned green, yellow or blue (the worst), depending on a ‘triage officer’s’ decision. In truth, a death officer. …
“In 2015, the state could have purchased the additional 16,000 needed ventilators for $36,000 apiece, or a total of $576 million. It’s a lot of money, but in hindsight, spending half a percent of the budget to prepare for pandemic was the right thing to do.”
Rather than spend that money on ventilators in 2015, Governor Cuomo had other priorities at the time. According to a report in The Federalist: “Cuomo could’ve spent the necessary $576 million on the ventilators to prepare for the worst-case scenario, but instead opted to spend $750 million on a solar panel factory” — a reference to the aforementioned SolarCity RiverBend project.
That same article points out that it is the responsibility of each state — and not the federal government — to stockpile enough medical equipment for a potential emergency. But many states — including New York — have long had laws in place capping everything from the number of beds to the number of specialized devices a hospital can acquire. As The Federalist explains:
“New York, along with 35 other states and the District of Columbia, have in place what are known as certificate-of-need (CON) laws. According to Reason, ‘Their stated purpose is to keep hospitals from overspending, and thus from having to charge higher prices to make up for unnecessary outlays of capital costs. But in practice, they mean hospitals must get a state agency’s permission before offering new services or installing a new medical technology. Depending on the state, everything from the number of hospital beds to the installation of a new MRI machine could be subject to CON review.’
“Rules like these artificially lower available medical care. Rather than produce good results for patients, these overbearing regulations have instead inflated health-care costs and created a lack of competition among hospitals, leading to poor care. In addition, these protocols could lead to shortages of crucial medical equipment, such as ventilators and hospital beds, as demonstrated in New York.
“Radio host Mark Levin referenced these laws during an interview [on March 22, 2020] with Dr. Anthony Fauci…. Levin later went on to criticize Cuomo, stating, ‘I watched the governor of New York say we need more beds, and I said, Well, why don’t you go get them? Because under these CON laws … the first state to have [such a law] was New York in the 1960s. They limit the number of beds for whatever reason, they limit the expansion of facilities and not just that, MRIs, CTs, other devices.”
Cuomo Reacts with Contempt When Protester Says the Governor Should Quickly Reopen the NYS Economy
At a coronavirus-related press conference in April 2020, Cuomo told protesters calling for the state’s economy to reopen that he would not take the risk of reopening it too quickly: “I get the economic hardship. Everybody gets it. Everybody feels it.” In response to one particular woman who strenuously insisted that she was in desperate need of going back to work and earning a living, the governor said: “You want to go to work? Go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow…. There are people hiring. You can get a job as an essential worker. So now you can go to work and you’re not going to kill anyone.”
Cuomo Orders NYS Nursing Homes to Accept Coronavirus Patients, Then Lies About Number of Nursing-Home Deaths
As of April 17, 2020, roughly 25% of the 12,000+ COVID-19 deaths in New York State had occurred in nursing homes. That is, 3,060 to 3,316 nursing-home patients had already died of the disease. The NYS Health Department had battled against releasing that information, claiming that it was protecting the privacy of residents — even when the people pleading for the release of the information were their own loved ones. In one facility, 17% of the residents had died; in 5 others, more than 10% were dead. And only data from a fraction of nursing homes in the state had yet been made public. In New York City, while the official nursing-home death total was 688, the actual number may have been over 2,000.
As of May 5, 2020, the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York State nursing homes had reached at least 4,813.
The Cuomo administration blamed the nursing homes. But in fact, it was the state that had ordered those facilities to accept coronavirus patients. Specifically: On March 25, 2020, Governor Cuomo’s Department of Health issued an order that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.” The Department also prohibited any rules requiring the testing of returning patients: “NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable, to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
Moreover, nursing homes — in contravention to federal recommendations and requirements — were barred from even asking if people being transferred to their facilities had tested positive for the virus at any time. As Dr. Joel Zinberg, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, later explained:
“It wasn’t merely that they [the nursing homes] could admit them, they were ordered to admit them. This was not an advisory that was giving them any sort of discretion. They were told in no uncertain terms that they must comply with this and that they were prohibited from barring someone from admission based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. In fact, they were even prohibited from testing any prospective admissions. They were told that they must readmit these patients who had had known COVID infections, into the nursing homes.
“Even though they [the Cuomo administration] subsequently claimed that, oh, they were just following federal guidance or that this was some discretionary action or that nothing happened that was untoward, all of those claims are untrue.
“Now, the rationale at the time for this policy was that they were concerned with preserving the number of hospital beds available for COVID infections. And it is reasonable to note that at the time, hospitalizations were rising, utilization of ICU beds were rising, so it was a legitimate concern. But that did not mean that one should then pour these potentially infected patients back into nursing homes, which everyone knew even at that early stage were breeding grounds for COVID infection and that’s where the vulnerable people, the elderly and the infirm, were living in closed congregate facilities.
“Moreover, it’s worth noting that at the time, the Javits Center was opening up. The U.S. Navy ship Comfort had sailed into New York Harbor. These were outlets that were available to the state to place these patients, but instead they insisted that they go back in this very dangerous fashion, right into these nursing facilities.”
Zinberg also debunked Cuomo’s claim that by sending possible COVID patients into the nursing homes, he was merely following federal guidance. “[I]t’s an untrue claim,” said Zinberg. “The [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] guidance on this issue said that nursing homes can accept patients back from hospitals if they have adequate infection control facilities. They were never told that they must or that they should or that they have to. All of which was language that was in the New York state directive.”
Between March 25 and May 8, at least 6,326 COVID patients were transferred from hospitals to nursing homes in New York State. On May 10, 2020 — by which time more than 5,300 New Yorkers living in nursing homes had died from the virus — Cuomo, reversing his March 25 order, issued a series of new rules stating that hospitals could no longer release patients to nursing homes in the Empire State unless the patients tested negative for the virus. “We’re just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after [a] hospital visit,” said Cuomo. “Period. If there’s any issue, the resident must be referred to the department of health which will find alternative care.” But the governor’s reversal came far too late; nursing home residents continued to die in staggering numbers.
On May 13, 2020, The New York Times revealed that shortly after the issuance of the Cuomo Health Department’s aforementioned March 25 order, the governor’s aides — in response to intensive lobbying efforts by nursing home representatives — had “quietly inserted a provision on[to] Page 347 of New York’s final, voluminous budget bill.” That provision provided what the newspaper described as “unusual legal protections” designed to shield nursing homes from potential lawsuits that might accuse them of failing to protect residents from coronavirus. When confronted with the Times story, Cuomo commissioned his own Health Department as well as the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, to conduct an inquiry. But Republicans demanded an independent investigation, and they were joined by a number of Democrats as well. For example:
- New York Assemblyman Ron Kim addressed Cuomo on Twitter: “The profit-driven nursing home model was already broken way before this pandemic and everyone knew this, including @NYStateofHealth. So why would you send #COVID19 patients back to these under-equipped facilities? This was arguably the deadliest decision in American history.”
- New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said: “It’s fine to have the Health Department and the attorney general looking at what individual nursing homes are doing. But there needs to be a professional review of not only the industry as a whole but what the Department of Health has been doing, both leading up to this situation and in the midst of this situation. Certainly, it would be wrong for the Department of Health to be charged with examining itself. The attorney general should bring in outside counsel.”
- State Senator Gustavo Rivera, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said: “I strongly believe that the Legislature is one of the key entities that should look into this issue, which has devastated so many families across our state. It is imperative to hold public hearings as soon as possible to get to the bottom of what truly happened at our state’s nursing homes as the COVID-19 pandemic developed.”
In a May 19, 2020 interview on MSNBC, Cuomo was asked the following question: “[Y]ou have been criticized for your comments about nursing homes. Some people say you did not act quickly enough. Too little, too late. What is your response to that criticism?” Without mentioning the enormous death toll that his March 25th nursing-homes directive had caused, the governor replied:
“I’m getting criticized now for doing too much. I have the strongest national provisions in place where staff of nursing homes must be tested twice per week. And the nursing homes are upset that this is too burdensome for them to do it. I understand that it’s burdensome, I understand it’s the most aggressive in the nation. But I also understand that this is the most vulnerable population in the most vulnerable place. We will have lost many Americans in this, … but the only solace we’re going to be able to take is we can say we did everything we could. And we didn’t lose anyone for want of medical care, precautions, et cetera. So, yes, they’re unhappy that I’m saying two tests a week for staff. But I want to make sure every one of us can say we did everything that we could.”
Addressing the New York State nursing-home-deaths issue more directly on May 20, Cuomo blamed President Trump for those deaths:
“This is a political season, I get it. I’m not going to get into the political back-and-forth, but anyone who wants to ask why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing homes, it’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance. They should ask President Trump. I think that will stop the conversation.”
New York State congresswoman Elise Stefanik addressed Cuomo’s assertion about Trump and the CDC: “Governor Cuomo continues to point fingers at the federal government, but here are the facts regarding CDC guidance. The governor’s decision to mandate that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients, completely disregards the case-by-case approach recommended by CDC.”
Cuomo’s claim about Trump and the CDC is further refuted by the track record of another governor, Republican Ron DeSantis of Florida, who, on March 15, 2020, issued an order prohibiting the return of the coronavirus hospital patients to nursing homes until they were no longer infectious. As a result of DeSantis’s policy, Florida, as of May 22, had lost only 3.5 nursing home residents per 100,000 people in the state’s overall population. By contrast, New York had lost 27 nursing home patients per 100,000 people in the state’s overall population. And as of May 10, 2020, a total of 656 residents of Florida nursing homes (out of approximately 73,000 such residents) had died of COVID-19, whereas the death toll in New York nursing homes exceeded 5,300 (out of about 102,000 residents.)
Another governor who issued an executive order requiring nursing homes in his state to admit patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, was New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. As a result of that policy, New Jersey nursing homes — like their counterparts in New York — lost thousands of elderly residents to the disease.
On May 29, 2020, former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey reported that “COVID-19 has killed at least 11,000 to 12,000 nursing-home and assisted-living residents in New York, nearly double what the state admits to.”
On August 10, 2020, the Associated Press reported that the total number of COVID-19 casualties in New York State nursing homes were being greatly undercounted, because New York was the only state in the U.S. that counted only those deaths that actually occurred in nursing homes, and not the deaths of people who became ill in nursing homes but did not die until after they had been transported to hospitals for treatment. “That statistic,” said AP, “could add thousands to the state’s official care home death toll of just over 6,600. But so far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading to speculation the state is manipulating the figures to make it appear it is doing better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire.”
On September 1, 2020, EmpireCenter.org reported:
“The [New York] state Health Department is offering a new explanation for why it won’t provide the full death toll of coronavirus in nursing homes: it can’t find the records.
“Early last month, the Empire Center filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking a count of all nursing home residents who have died from COVID-19. It specifically sought the number who had died after being transferred to hospitals in their final days, which the department has been leaving out of its official tally.
“In a letter on Monday, the department said it could not yet fulfill the request ‘because a diligent search for relevant documents is still being conducted.’ The letter estimated the information would be provided no sooner than Nov. 5 – three months after the original request – and possibly later than that.
“Postponement letters like this have become a routine part of the state’s FOIL process, and they often cite a ‘diligent search’ as the explanation for a delay. In this case, however, a search of any kind should not be necessary. Through its Health Emergency Response Data System, or HERDS, the department has required nursing homes to file daily reports throughout the pandemic. Included in those reports are counts of all residents who die from coronavirus, both within the facilities and elsewhere. Those numbers are the basis for the partial count that the department does make public – which stood at 6,639 as of Aug. 29, but omits potentially thousands of residents who died in hospitals.”
Cuomo Calls Coronavirus, Which Started in China, the “European Virus”
In late April 2020, Cuomo said: “The virus that came to New York did not come from China. It came from Europe.” To buttress his claim, he cited research, conducted by NYU Langone Health, which found that approximately 13,000 flights from Europe had landed in New York and New Jersey between January and March, carrying more than 2.2 million people. “We closed the front door with the China travel ban, which was right, but we left the back door open,” he said, referring to the fact that President Trump’s ban on travel from Europe was not announced until March 12. Cuomo’s purpose in making this statement, was to set the stage for a Democrat Party strategy that would relentlessly blame Trump for having failed to cut off travel from Europe sooner than he did.
Advancing this theme further during his daily press conference on May 11, 2020, Cuomo referred to the Chinese-origin coronavirus as “the European virus attack.”
Cuomo’s tactic of rebranding the coronavirus as a European phenomenon was inconsistent with an April 5, 2020 Wall Street Journal report that according to a University of Southampton study, “the number of coronavirus cases [worldwide] could have been reduced by 95% had China moved to contain the virus three weeks sooner.” Cuomo’s tactic was also inconsistent with a May 2020 report in the German publication Der Spiegel, which indicated that according to Germany’s federal intelligence service, known as the BND, Chinese President Xi Jinping had pressured World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on January 21 to “delay” the issuance of “a global warning” about the coronavirus outbreak. The BND estimated that this delay then resulted in a loss of four to six weeks in the worldwide fight against COVID-19.
Cuomo Accuses President Trump of “Colossal Blunder” in Handling Coronavirus Pandemic
On August 3, 2020, Cuomo accused President Trump of repeatedly lying to the American people, downplaying the serious nature of the coronavirus, and prematurely urging governors nationwide to reopen their states’ economies. Some excerpts:
- “The president of the United States said five months ago, ‘Reopen the economy. Liberate the states. Liberate the economy. These governors are slow walking reopening. They’re just playing politics. That’s what they’re doing. There’s no reason not to reopen the economy. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.’ Florida jumps, Texas jumps, Arizona jumps, ‘Yes, we’re just going to reopen the economy.’ That was a mistake.”
- “It was a mistake to see what we had to do here in New York — the testing, the hospital system, the contact tracing, the closed down, the phased reopening — and pay no attention to it. No attention to it. We’re six months later — these states still don’t have testing and contact tracing. How can it be? You had six months — here in New York we had two weeks. We were ambushed because the virus came from Europe and nobody told us.”
- “This was a colossal blunder, how Covid was handled by this federal government — colossal blunder. Shame on all of you. Six months, lives lost.”
- “Every American knows he made a mistake. Every American knows this was the worst government blunder in modern history.”
- “Not since the Vietnam War have Americans sat in their living room to see the numbers on the TV screen every night saying what a mistake it was. During the Vietnam War, every night you saw the death toll. You saw the injury toll on TV. Every night they’ve seen this virus increasing all across the country and the death toll going up.”
- “I trust the people of New York. I told them the truth. I told them the facts. I never sugarcoated. I never shielded. I told him the truth, so they knew what to do and they did it. That’s what we call being New York tough and smart and united and disciplined and loving. They should try it in Washington.”
Blaming President Trump for Coronavirus Outbreak in New York
During a September 8, 2000 press briefing, Cuomo blamed the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus in New York entirely on President Trump. Said the governor:
“Donald Trump caused the COVID outbreak in New York. That is a fact. It’s a fact that he admitted and the CDC admitted and [Dr. Anthony] Fauci admitted. The China virus, the China virus, the China virus. It was not the China virus. It was the European virus that came to New York. They missed it. They missed it. The China virus went to Europe. It got on a plane. It went to Europe. They never even thought of the possibility. And then 3 million Europeans got on the plane and came to New York. And they brought the virus. January, they brought the virus. February, they brought the virus. March, they brought the virus. And in mid-March, the federal government does a travel ban from Europe. Mid-March.”
Cuomo Blames Trump for All Coronavirus Deaths
During an October 29, 2020 television appearance on The View, Cuomo said: “I’m holding [Trump] responsible for every death in this country first,… because he lied about it. He lied about it from day one. They had that memo from January, that said millions are going to die. They lied. They knew that millions were going to get infected and hundreds of thousands were going to die. That’s the first reason.” Cuomo then characterized the Trump administration as “totally incompetent,” and he criticized Trump for trying to “demonize China” by focusing on the place where the virus originated. “The virus did not come here from China,” Cuomo said. “The virus came here from Europe because he wasn’t paying attention, the virus left China, went to Europe. January, February, March, we had three million people coming in from Europe… that’s where the virus came from.”
Cuomo Lifts Coronavirus Restrictions Across NYS
On January 27, 2021 — exactly one week after the inauguration of President Joe Biden — Governor Cuomo lifted coronavirus restrictions across most of New York State. He lifted restrictions on nearly all of New York’s Covid-19 “cluster zones.” “I think at this point it’s safe to say the holiday surge was anticipated, the holiday surge did happen, but the holiday surge is over,” Cuomo told reporters during a press conference.
NYS Attorney General Reports That Cuomo Greatly Underreported COVID-Related Nursing Home Deaths
On January 28, 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James reiterated the assertions made in the aforementioned August 10, 2020 Associated Press report. Specifically, James concluded that the state Department of Health had underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes statewide by as much as 50 percent. On January 29, former HHS Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir stated that, contrary to Cuomo’s claim, the governor’s March 25, 2020 order on coronavirus patients in nursing homes had mot been issued to comply with regulations imposed by the Trump administration. Said Giroir: “What Gov. Cuomo said is the nursing homes had to take back these patients. [That] they were mandated to do that. What the CDC said is, under very specific circumstances where a nursing home had all the training, had all the PPE, had all the isolation requirements, all the staff, all the training, then it would be permissible to do so. In no way was this federal government guidance. That is just absolutely wrong and he [Cuomo] can’t shift the blame. He has to own this one.”
When Cuomo was asked to comment on the A.G. report, he said: “A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes. New York State, we’re only about 28 percent — only — but we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes. But who cares — 33 [percent], 28 [percent] — died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
Cuomo Aide Admits That the Governor Hid COVID-Related Nursing Home Deaths Data from Federal Prosecutors
During a February 11, 2021 video-conference call with state Democratic lawmakers, Cuomo’s top aide, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, privately apologized for the Cuomo administration’s decision to withhold the state’s COVID-related nursing-home death toll, which was at least 50 percent higher than the administration had been reporting. In an effort to defend Cuomo’s actions, DeRosa blamed former President Donald Trump for having “turn[ed] this [issue] into a giant political football.” “He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” said DeRosa. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.” Noting also that Trump had “direct[ed] the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us,” DeRosa continued: “And basically, we froze. Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation. That played a very large role into this.”
The story was exposed after one of the participants in the conference call leaked the audio recording of DeRosa’s words to the media. The New York Post pointed out: “[I]nstead of a mea culpa to the grieving family members of more than 13,000 dead seniors or the critics who say the Health Department spread COVID-19 in the care facilities with a March 25 state Health Department directive that nursing homes admit infected patients, DeRosa tried to make amends with the fellow Democrats for the political inconvenience it caused them. ‘So we do apologize,’ she said. ‘I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.’”
Contrary to Melissa DeRosa’s assertion that the Cuomo administration had elected to lie about New York’s COVID-death statistics because President Trump had been “tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” Trump’s first tweet about Cuomo and the COVID scandal did not come until September 3, 2020 — by which time Cuomo had been putting out false statistics for months.
The Magnitude & Ramifications of Cuomo’s Wrongdoing vis-a-vis COVID & Nursing Homes
On February 18, 2021, journalist Marc Thiessen wrote:
“According to a senior Justice Department official, the administration withheld data on private nursing home deaths in New York until the final days of the Trump administration. As a result, the federal government was given bad data about the spread of the pandemic in New York. An Associated Press investigation found that New York under-reported the number of hospital patients recovering from COVID-19 who were sent to nursing homes by 40%. The real number was more than 9,000…. And the Cuomo administration reported only 8,500 nursing home deaths, when the real number was about 15,000 — an undercount of at least 43%.
“This was more than just a coverup. It impeded our public health response. We now know that New York was the primary source of new infections across the United States. Genetic testing shows that the outbreak in New York was seeded by travelers from Europe, and that it was the New York variant — not the West Coast variant that arrived directly from China — that seeded the rest of the country. The New York Times reported last year that the New York variant was responsible for 70% of COVID-19 cases in Texas, 78% of cases in Wisconsin, 80% in Alaska, 84% in Arizona and 100% in Louisiana. As Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told the Times, ‘New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country.’”
Cuomo Lies About What He Told the NYS Legislature Regarding COVID & Nursing Home Deaths
During a February 15, 2021 news conference, Cuomo told reporters that he had long ago informed the New York State legislature about an August 2020 Department of Justice probe in which the DOJ officially asked the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan to provide the Department with data about policies that may have resulted in nursing home deaths – data that could possibly have led to a broader DOJ investigation. That DOJ probe, Cuomo elaborated, had caused his administration to temporarily shelve its compliance with a NYS legislature request for similar information vis-à-vis nursing home deaths in New York. Said Cuomo at the February 15 news conference:
“The staff of the Assembly and the Senate were told that—not just that we were responding to DOJ, because that was in the newspaper—but that we couldn’t respond to the state legislative request, or we wouldn’t respond to state legislative requests because we were dealing with the DOJ request. The staff was told that. Who the staff told on their staff, I don’t know. But, you know, if you tell [York State Budget Director] Rob Mujica something, then he’s supposed to tell me. If he doesn’t, you still told my staff, so that’s what that is.”
Following the February 15 news conference, Democratic State Senator Alessandra Biaggi tweeted: “No, @NYGovCuomo , you did not tell the *entire* Senate or Assembly that there was a DOJ investigation, as the reason why you didn’t share the nursing home numbers. I found out about a DOJ investigation with the rest of NY’ers in the @nypost story Thursday night [February 11, 2021].”
Similarly, Republican New York State Senator Robert Ortt released a statement on February 15 that said: “To be clear, the Senate Republicans were never notified by the Governor’s Administration regarding the Department of Justice request.”
Yet another NYS official to claim that Cuomo was lying about having notified the state legislature about the DOJ’s investigation into New York’s nursing homes, was Democrat Assemblyman Ron Kim — a major supporter of Bernie Sanders and Moumita Ahmed— who had been on the February 11 conference call with Melissa DeRosa. Kim told the Fox News Channel on February 15: “It took us almost two months before the governor decided to change. In fact, a month later, at a press conference, he said he didn’t know about it. He lied. Just like he’s lying right now to today’s press conference about sending notices to the Assembly and Senate that we knew about the Department of Justice investigation. We were not informed, we were not told there was an investigation in August.” “If there’s nothing to hide,” Kim added, “why didn’t they just hand over the information when we asked for it? The information was available. They could have just disclosed it. But they chose not to. … I do believe we need a thorough investigation, whether that be [an] independent commission or the attorney general or the federal government. And that needs to happen as soon as possible.”
On February 17, Kim told CNN that after he had gone public about Cuomo’s dishonesty two days earlier, the governor called him directly and threatened his career “if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said.” “He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,” Kim said, claiming that Cuomo had told him that “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines.” “And he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me,” Kim said, adding: “At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t.”
Kim’s wife confirmed to CNN that Cuomo had been “loud” and “angry” in his call with Mr. Kim; that she had heard the governor say the words “my wrath” and “Who do you think you are?”; and that immediately after the phone call had ended, her husband told her: “The governor threatened to destroy my life.”
Mr. Kim also told CNN that Cuomo thereafter had continued to try to contact him, and that he (Kim) had “received multiple calls from a ‘No Caller ID’ number, followed by messages from Cuomo aides saying that the governor would like to speak with him again.” But Kim said that he did not call the governor back, and that he had asked Cuomo’s office to direct all subsequent communications to Kim’s attorney, whom he had hired as a result of the original February 15 conversation with the governor.
In a March 3, 2021 interview with Fox News, Kim re-confirmed that Cuomo had instructed him to cover up the nursing-home scandal. “I’ve fought along with [Fox News’] Janice Dean and others for 10 months to give these families [of nursing home patients who died of COVID] the voice that they lacked, and then in one second the governor wanted me to lie and cover everything up to protect him. And I wasn’t going to have that,” Kim said. “In a private meeting [DeRosa] admitted that there was a cover-up and she implicated all of us, not just the members but the institutions, the Senate and the Assembly, and the moment she did that it no longer became a private conversation. The public had right to know and we have a duty to report to the public that this is what’s going on with the executive and we need to check the governor and we need to do our jobs to get to the truth.”
New Study Says Cuomo’s Nursing Home Order Was “Associated with Possibly More Than 1,000 Additional Deaths”
In February 2021, the Empire Center for Public Policy, an Albany-based think tank, issued a report titled “COVID-positive Admissions Were Correlated with Higher Death Rates in New York Nursing Homes,” which concluded that: “The admission of coronavirus-positive patients into New York nursing homes under March 25 guidance from the New York State Department of Health was associated with a statistically significant increase in resident deaths.” “Statewide,” the study added, “the findings imply that COVID-positive new admissions between late March and early May, which numbered 6,327, were associated with several hundred and possibly more than 1,000 additional resident deaths.” The study further noted:
“The effect [of Cuomo’s March 25, 2020 guidance] was more pronounced upstate—possibly because the pandemic was less severe in that region at the time, so that even a single exposure would have had a larger impact on the level of risk. Among nursing homes outside of New York City and its suburbs, each positive admission was associated with 0.62 additional deaths (MOE plus or minus 0.17), and any number of positive admissions was associated with 9.33 additional deaths per facility (MOE plus or minus 2.6). Also in the upstate region, facilities that admitted at least one positive patient during this period accounted for 82 percent of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents, even though they had only 32 percent of the residents.”
Regarding Cuomo’s efforts to withhold nursing home COVID-19 death data, the report’s co-author, Bill Hammond, said: “It sure seems to be politically motivated.”
Kaiser Health News, (KHN), the news arm of the Kaiser Family Foundation, reported on March 2, 2021, that Cuomo’s claims about the effects of his March 25, 2020 guidance had been extremely misleading:
“Cuomo frequently touts how well New York stacks up against other states in preventing nursing home covid deaths. In September, he said New York ranked 46th out of 50 states, a claim we examined and found to be Mostly False. A key problem is that until recently the New York totals didn’t include deaths of nursing home residents that occurred in hospitals.
“State comparisons are tricky. But most other states, perhaps all of them, do include hospital deaths in their covid nursing home totals, said Priya Chidambaram, a senior policy analyst at KFF, the Kaiser Family Foundation. […] ‘New York’s decision to pull out the hospital-based deaths was not based on standard practice,’ she said, noting that federal rules for reporting covid nursing home deaths require that states include off-site deaths in hospitals.”
NY Times Says Cuomo Aides Rewrote Health Department Report on Order to Hide COVID-Related Nursing-Home Deaths, Days Before Cuomo Sought Permission from Ethics Agency to Earn Money on Sales of His Forthcoming Book About His Leadership During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 4, 2021, a New York Times article — based on information obtained in interviews with unnamed Cuomo officials — alleged that top aides to the governor had rewritten a June 2020 report prepared by New York Department of Health (NYDH) officials, so as to vastly understate the number of COVID-related deaths that had occurred in nursing homes statewide. The purpose of this deception, said the Times report, was to shield Cuomo from political damage in light of his disastrous March 25, 2020 order requiring nursing homes to admit people who had tested positive for COVID-19. The secret changes to the NYDH report were made several months prior to the start of the federal government’s investigation into New York nursing home deaths — a significant detail that contradicted recent claims by Cuomo aides who had said that the administration’s reason for concealing New York’s nursing-home death statistics from the state legislature, was its concern about the federal probe.
The Times article stated that Cuomo’s aides, none of whom possessed any expertise or experience in public health, pushed back on the NYDH in a manner that went “well beyond the usual process of the governor’s office suggesting edits to an agency report,” and caused NYDH officials to worry that the final product would be “no longer a true scientific report.” But those health officials, said the Times, “feared for their jobs if they did not go along.”
The Times report also noted that the decision to doctor the NYDH report was finalized just a few days before Cuomo asked a state ethics agency to permit him to earn money from book sales. Cuomo’s book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was eventually released in October 2020. The publisher, Crown Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, paid him an advance of at least low- to mid-seven figures for the book.
Cuomo Accuses Trump of Unleashing Military & Racist Police Against American Civilians
In the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd — a black man who had died after being abused by a white police officer in Minneapolis — a number of U.S. cities were overrun by violent riots. On June 1, President Trump, holding a bible, posed for a photo in front of Washington, D.C.’s St. John’s Church, which had been damaged in a fire set during riots the night before. Cuomo criticized the president for using the military to secure the area around the church, so that he could engage in a “photo op”:
“The president wants to re-create reality here, right? Even the pictures from Washington, D.C. You had a number of protesters. They were peaceful protesters. They were young people, largely a white crowd in Washington, D.C., who are offended at what they saw with the Floyd murder, which they should be. It’s actually a beautiful thing that you have people all across this nation saying enough is enough after what happened to Mr. Floyd. So that’s actually a positive. Now, do you have any in these situations, people who exploit the moment and people who have criminal activity and looting and extremist groups that pose anarchy? Yes. But the protesters themselves have been making a very valid point — wake up America, we’re killing people based on the color of their skin. And it is a real issue. The president wants to make it a reality TV show of God and country, call out the military and then go to church and hold up a Bible. Yeah, we understand who he’s trying to appeal to and the base he’s trying to rally with the military, and I believe in God, and I hold a Bible, but that’s not what’s happening in this country today.
“What the president today did was he called out the American military against American citizens. That’s what they did. They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest, which everyone watched on TV, just so he could have a photo-op of walking to a church. When was the last time you saw the American military called out against Americans? Yeah, is that America? Is that making America great? I don’t think so…. I mean, it is amazing — calling out the American military for a photo opportunity. That’s what it was. I mean, it was shameful. It was really, truly shameful.”
Cuomo Signs Police Reform Bill
On June 12, 2020, Cuomo, feeling pressure from the nationwide protests that had erupted in the wake of the death of George Floyd, signed a package of police reforms. “Police reform is long overdue, and Mr. Floyd’s murder is only the most recent murder,” said the governor. According to Fox News: “The bills include a ban on police chokeholds and measures making it easier to sue people who call police on others without good reasons, as well as a special prosecutor’s office to investigate deaths during police encounters…. One other law would repeal section 50-A of the civil rights law, making complaints against officers public. Police unions fear that such a move will mean that frivolous complaints could be used against officers.”
“Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders have no business celebrating today,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch. “New York state had been failing our communities for decades: failing to provide economic opportunity, failing to educate our youth, failing to care for the vulnerable and the mentally ill. Police officers spend our days addressing issues caused by these failures. Now, we won’t even be able to do that. We will be permanently frozen, stripped of all resources and unable to do the job. We don’t want to see our communities suffer, but this is what Governor Cuomo and our elected leaders have chosen.”
NYS Parole Board Members — Almost All Cuomo Appointees — Release Barbaric Double Murderer
In July 2020, the 16-member New York state parole board — 14 of whose members had been appointed by Cuomo — granted parole to 69-year-old Sam Ayala, the ringleader of a sadistic 1977 Westchester County home invasion in which he and his two accomplices brutalized two young mothers, Bonnie Minter and Sheila Watson, in the presence of their four small children before shooting the women a dozen times and laughing about it. When sentenced in 1978 for his crimes, Ayala was given two concurrent 25-years-to-life sentences for the rape and murder of Minter and Watson, the maximum penalty allowable under state law at that time. (The following year, the law was changed to ensure that time for such offenses would be served consecutively rather than concurrently, but this could not be applied retroactively to the Ayala case.)
New York Post columnist Miranda Devine laid bare the process by which Cuomo had filled the parole board with individuals capable of setting free such a barbaric individual as Ayala:
“The board refresh followed a concerted campaign by criminal justice reform activists … alleging discrimination against minorities and a bias toward punishment rather than rehabilitation. Cuomo and the state Senate obligingly fixed that perception by appointing new members who would bow to the new paradigm: criminal rights are everything….
“Jason Minter, now 50, has had to address the parole board every 18 months since Ayala became eligible for parole in 2002. While it was excruciating to relive his victim impact statements, each time parole was denied. But something changed this year….
“To grasp what has gone wrong with the parole board, we must go inside the June 19 meeting last year of the state Senate’s Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee as they interviewed seven new candidates put forward by Cuomo to join the parole board and change its very nature. Pulling the strings was Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), sponsor of a parole reform bill requiring the release of all eligible prisoners unless they present an ‘unreasonable risk’ to the community….
“Of the seven candidates considered, just one was rejected: Richard Kratzenberg, the only white candidate, a former corrections officer and parole officer. That counted against him, as did the fact he was ‘also formerly a registered Republican,’ according to a dirt sheet circulated by the ‘Release Aging People in Prison’ [RAPP] activist group. ‘He repeatedly conveyed an archaic belief that a person’s crime of conviction — and not their record of rehabilitation or transformation — should be the primary factor when making parole release determinations,’ the RAPP document said, sliming him as an agent of ‘New York’s ugly, racist legacy of tough-on-crime policies and mass incarceration.’ At the June 19, 2019, hearing, Kratzenberg made the mistake of saying ‘victim impact is significant’ when considering parole. Also important was the ‘seriousness of the offense . . . was there any violence . . . the rap sheets, the nature of the criminal history . . . how [the inmate] behaved while incarcerated.’ […]
“The commonsense sentiments enraged Rivera. In discussions afterward, Rivera is captured on video saying: ‘I don’t trust somebody with 30 years in the Corrections system . . . He is not going to bring any type of new energy to the board.’ […] The other five nominees passed Rivera’s purity test. There was black Baptist pastor Michael Corley, black criminal justice professor Sheila Samuels, black nonprofit welfare agency executive Carlton Mitchell, Korean-born former public defender Chanwoo Lee and Hispanic Elsie Segarra, who passed muster despite her parole officer background, saying: ‘At times I was considered an agent of change in the community.’ Samuels may have started out as a prosecutor, but she went on to be a defense attorney and academic and now professes ‘a passion for criminal justice and social work.’ […] Thus, the parole board evolve[d] over time to suit the agenda of Rivera and fellow activists.”
Cuomo Issues Warning of Physical Violence to President Trump
On September 2, 2020, Cuomo condemned President Trump’s threat that he would withhold federal funding from New York and other “lawless” cities — namely Portland, Seattle, and Washington — that had taken virtually no measures to thwart the violent riots that had erupted therein. Said the governor:
“He better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York. New Yorkers don’t want to have anything to do with him. He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City, people don’t want to have anything to do with him…. President Trump has been actively trying to kill New York City since he’s been elected. I think it’s because he is from New York City and New York City rejected him, always. He was dismissed as a clown in New York City, those who know him best, like him least. He was disrespected in New York City. Nobody took him seriously and he was just a tabloid cartoon.”
Cuomo Says He Would Have Physically Assaulted President Trump for His Disparaging Remarks about Cuomo’s Brother
In a November 9, 2020 radio interview on The Howard Stern Show, Cuomo said that he had gotten particularly angry when Trump made what the governor interpreted as anti-Italian slurs against his younger brother Chris Cuomo, the primetime CNN anchor, whom Trump commonly referred to as “Fredo” — the hapless character in The Godfather. Said Cuomo during the course of the interview:
- “If I wasn’t governor of New York, I would have decked him. Period. I mean, he was attacking me, he was attacking my family, he was anti-Italian. Every nasty thing.”
- “Once you say, hit him once below the belt – just because it would make you feel better. Let’s be honest. And he’s so vulnerable. Now you’re down in the mud with him. And now in some ways, you damn your own cause.”
- “Take away that word governor for 24 hours, I would have had a field day with him.”
Former Aides Reveal Details of Cuomo’s Toxic Personality
In November 2020, former Cuomo aide and consultant Alexis Grenell described the governor as a “snarling attack dog who gaslights fellow Democrats and deploys staff to call his female critics ‘f—-g idiots.’” She characterized Cuomo’s promotion of his new book in which he discussed his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — even as the pandemic continued to claim many victims across New York State — as an act of hubris. “St. Andrew, our savior of the spring, is now milking his 15 minutes of fame for an extra 30,” said Grenell. “The book is an undignified victory lap by the facts-first persona that won him legitimate praise to begin with, underscoring the point that for Cuomo it was always more about presentation than substance.”
Grenell called it “genuinely depressing” that Cuomo, who had recently won an Emmy Award for his televised news conferences about the coronavirus during the spring and summer of 2020, was now “so eager to be flattered by Ben Stiller,” one of the celebrities who had praised Cuomo for his award. “It’s almost hard to remember how he ridiculed two-time Emmy Award–winner Cynthia Nixon back in 2018 for being an unqualified celebrity,” Grenell said in a reference to Cuomo’s opponent in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. “Turns out he just wanted to trade places all along.”
“The self-described ‘cool dude in a loose mood,’ threw a Trump-style tantrum,” Grenell added, describing how Cuomo, during a recent press conference in Albany, “blew a gasket” when he called reporters “obnoxious and offensive” after they asked him if New York City’s public schools would be shut down because of rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city. Asserting that Cuomo is “more about presentation than substance,” Grenell said: “It’s why he and his staff reflexively insult anyone who criticizes his handling of the pandemic or insists on returning to the normal system of democratic governance as Jefferson envisioned it.”
In an early December 2020 tweet, 36-year-old Lindsey Boylan — a committed Democrat who had worked as an economic-development aide for the Cuomo administration from March 2015 to October 2018 — stated that the governor’s office had the “most toxic team environment” of any workplace she had ever experienced. In another tweet, Boylan said: “If people weren’t deathly afraid of [Cuomo], they’d be saying the same thing and you’d already know the stories.” “If you’re not one of those handful” of Cuomo’s inner circle of “white people sitting alongside him at every presser … doing his dirty work,” Boylan added, “your life working for him is endlessly dispiriting…. That environment is beyond toxic. I’m still unwrapping it years later in therapy!” When a New York Post reporter asked Boylan to elaborate on her tweets, she replied: “I stand by what I said, and what I said speaks to not only my story, but countless others, predominately women I’ve interacted with or heard from over the years.”
Sexual Harassment Allegations
The First Woman, Lindsey Boylan
In a December 13, 2020 Twitter post, the aforementioned former aide to Cuomo, Lindsey Boylan, said that the governor had “harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation?”
Boylan reiterated and expanded upon this allegation two months later, when she gave details in a February 24, 2021 article published by Medium.com. Some excerpts:
“’Let’s play strip poker.’ I should have been shocked by the Governor’s crude comment, but I wasn’t. We were flying home from an October 2017 event in Western New York on his taxpayer-funded jet. He was seated facing me, so close our knees almost touched. His press aide was to my right and a state trooper behind us. ‘That’s exactly what I was thinking,’ I responded sarcastically and awkwardly. I tried to play it cool. But in that moment, I realized just how acquiescent I had become.”
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”
“In a few tweets [in December 2013], I told the world what a few close friends, family members and my therapist had known for years: Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just as he had done with so many other women.”
“There are many more of us, but most are too afraid to speak up. I’m compelled to tell my story because no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation — not by the Governor or anyone else. I expect the Governor and his top aides will attempt to further disparage me, just as they’ve done with Assemblymember Kim. They’d lose their jobs if they didn’t protect him. That’s how his administration works. I know because I was a part of it.”
“I joined state government in 2015 as a Vice President at Empire State Development. I was quickly promoted to Chief of Staff at the state economic development agency. The news of my appointment prompted a warning from a friend who served as an executive with an influential civic engagement organization: ‘Be careful around the Governor.’”
“My first encounter with the Governor came at a January 6, 2016, event at Madison Square Garden to promote the new Pennsylvania Station-Farley Complex project. After his speech, he stopped to talk to me. I was new on the job and surprised by how much attention he paid me. My boss soon informed me that the Governor had a ‘crush’ on me. It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: the struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance. Stephanie Benton, Director of the Governor’s Offices, told me in an email on December 14, 2016 that the Governor suggested I look up images of Lisa Shields — his rumored former girlfriend — because ‘we could be sisters’ and I was ‘the better looking sister.’ The Governor began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues. It was degrading.”
“I had complained to friends that the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs. His senior staff began keeping tabs on my whereabouts. ‘He is a sexist pig and you should avoid being alone with him!’ my mother texted me on November 4, 2016.”
“The Governor’s behavior made me nervous, but I didn’t truly fear him until December 2016…. I received a call from an unlisted number. It was the Governor’s body person. He told me to come to the Capitol because the Governor wanted to see me…. I was escorted into the Governor’s office…. The Governor entered the room from another door. We were alone. As he showed me around, I tried to maintain my distance. He paused at one point and smirked as he showed off a cigar box. He told me that President Clinton had given it to him while he served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The two-decade old reference to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky [with cigars used as sex toys] was not lost on me.”
“His inappropriate gestures became more frequent. He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine’s Day and arranged to have one delivered to me, the only one on my floor. A signed photograph of the Governor appeared in my closed-door office while I was out. These were not-so-subtle reminders of the Governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him.”
“In 2018, I was promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor. I initially turned the job down — not because I didn’t want the responsibility or work but because I didn’t want to be near him. I finally accepted the position at the Governor’s insistence with one requirement — I would keep my old agency office and remain on a separate floor from him and his inner circle.”
“The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were ‘money and power.’”
“I tried to excuse his behavior. I told myself ‘it’s only words.’ But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking…. After that, my fears worsened. I came to work nauseous every day. My relationship with his senior team — mostly women — grew hostile after I started speaking up for myself. I was reprimanded and told to get in line by his top aides, but I could no longer ignore it. On September 26, 2018, I sent a mass email informing staff members of my resignation.”
“It was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was.”
“After my tweets about the Governor in December , two women reached out to me with their own experiences. One described how she lived in constant fear, scared of what would happen to her if she rejected the Governor’s advances. The other said she was instructed by the Governor to warn staff members who upset him that their jobs could be at risk. Both told me they are too afraid to speak out.”
In March 2021, Boylan said that after Cuomo had shown off his new Shepherd-Malamute puppy, Captain, at a February 2018 press conference, the dog at one point jumped up and down near Boylan, prompting her to reach out to calm him. Cuomo, said Boylan, then joked that if he were a dog, he would try to “mount” her.
The Second Woman, Charlotte Bennett
On February 27, 2021, a second woman, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett — a former executive assistant and health-policy adviser to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor had asked her inappropriate personal questions, and had indicated that he was open to sexual relationships with very young women. A New York Post report about the matter said the following:
Cuomo, 63, never made any physical advances, she [Bennett] said. Still, she described a June meeting in Cuomo’s Albany office, during which he griped about being lonely during the pandemic and whined he “can’t even hug anyone.” Cuomo … then pressed her: “Who did I last hug,” she said. She tried to dodge the question by saying she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody,’” she said. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And [I] was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.” […]
When she told Cuomo in May of her experience as a sexual-assault survivor, he seemed fixated by the revelation, she said. She told a friend via text message: “The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” according to the Times.
Cuomo told her he was lonely since his relationship celebrity chef Sandra Lee, his girlfriend of 14 years, ended in 2019. He stressed to her that Lee was “out of the picture,” and referred to “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.” “Age doesn’t matter,” he told her, as he asked about her feelings about age differences in relationships — a conversation she told a friend about at the time, in a text reviewed by the Times. He was “fine with anyone above the age of 22,” she said he told her.
Once, when she told him she was mulling getting a tattoo, he suggested she get it on her buttocks, so people wouldn’t see it when she wore a dress, she told the Times.
She reported Cuomo’s conduct to his chief of staff and was transferred to another job with an office at the other side of the Capitol, Bennett said. She left the administration in November….
Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to Cuomo said in a statement that Cuomo “has requested an independent review and all staff will cooperate in that endeavor. Former Federal Judge Barbara Jones will lead the review.”
On February 28, 2021, Cuomo issued a press release that said:
“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office. I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work, and colleagues are often also personal friends. At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
In a March 4, 2021 interview on CBS, Miss Bennett had the following exchange with Norah O’Donnell:
O’DONNELL: Governor Cuomo said that he had never propositioned anybody. Do you believe that he was propositioning you?
O’DONNELL: For what?
O’DONNELL: In the spring of 2020 New York was the epicenter of the COVID crisis.
BENNETT: The pandemic was obviously stressful for all of us. And he was on TV nearly every day talking about it.
O’DONNELL: So, you think all this national attention may have emboldened him?
BENNETT: Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.
Bennett then alleged that on May 15, 2020, Cuomo began asking her about her love life and then became fixated upon her history as a sexual assault survivor.
BENNETT: So he goes, you were raped. You were raped. You were raped and abused and assaulted.
Bennett also claimed that on June 5, 2020, Cuomo called her into his office to take dictation and he then instructed her to turn off the tape recorder.
BENNETT: And then he explains at that point that he is looking for a girlfriend, he’s lonely, he’s tired.
O’DONNELL: You’ve just finished dictation and the Governor is telling you he’s lonely, and looking for a relationship.
BENNETT: Yes. He asked if I had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma.
O’DONNELL: This seemed highly inappropriate.
BENNETT: Yeah, the Governor asked me if I was sensitive to intimacy.
O’DONNELL: In his office.
BENNETT: Yes. During the work day.
O’DONNELL: You have been quoted as saying that he also asked you about if you had ever been with an older man.
BENNETT: Yeah. He asked me if age difference mattered. He also explained that he was fine with anyone over 22.
O’DONNELL: And how old are you?
BENNETT: I’m 25.
O’DONNELL: What were you thinking as he’s asking you these questions?
BENNETT: I thought he’s trying to sleep with me. The governor is trying to sleep with me. And I am deeply uncomfortable and I have to get out of this room as soon as possible.
O’DONNELL: And to be clear, what made you think that he was trying to sleep with you?
BENNETT: Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely.
O’Donnell then told the television audience: “Text messages sent by Bennett to a friend and reviewed by CBS News memorialize her encounter with Cuomo immediately afterwards. Bennett tells her friend the governor, quote, ‘talked about age differences in relationships.’ The friend who verified the messages asked, “Wait, what? Did he do something?’ Bennett responded, ‘No, but it was like the most explicit it could be.’”
O’DONNELL: How did you respond to those questions?
BENNETT: I responded honestly. And when I was even thinking of coming forward, I think that was where I held the most shame. And that like I really was uncomfortable.
O’DONNELL: Why did you feel shame?
BENNETT: I feel like people put the onus on the woman to shut that conversation down. And by answering I was show engaging in that, or enabling it, when in fact I was just terrified.
O’DONNELL: People will watch this and say why didn’t you get up and leave.
BENNETT: I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
O’DONNELL: He’s your boss.
BENNETT: He’s my boss. He’s everyone’s boss.
O’DONNELL: Governor Cuomo said in a statement that what he said may have, quote, been misinterpreted, did you misinterpret him?
BENNETT: No, I understood him loud and clear. It just didn’t go the way he planned.
O’DONNELL: Did you watch Governor Cuomo’s apology?
BENNETT: I did. It’s not an apology. It is not an issue of my feelings. It is an issue of his actions. The fact is that he was sexually harassing me and he has not apologized for sexually harassing me. And he can’t even use my name.
The Third Woman, Anna Ruch
On March 1, 2021, a third woman, Anna Ruch, accused Cuomo of having made unwanted physical advances against her. Ruch claimed that during a crowded 2019 wedding reception in New York, the governor had approached her and placed his hand on her bare lower back (which was exposed in an open-back dress). When Ruch removed his hand, Cuomo allegedly placed both his hands on the cheeks of Ruch’s face, told her that she seemed “aggressive,” and moved closer to her and asked if he could kiss her. “I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch told The New York Times. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”
The Fourth Woman, Ana Liss
Thirty-five year-old Ana Liss told The Wall Street Journal in a story published on March 6, 2021 that when she had worked as a policy aide to Cuomo from 2013-15, the governor called her “sweetheart,” he once kissed her hand and asked whether she had a boyfriend, and occasionally greeted her with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. Ms. Liss said that Cuomo never asked her about her work, focusing instead on her appearance and questions about her personal life. Consequently, she eventually asked to be transferred to another office.
The Fifth Woman, Karen Hinton
In another story published on March 6, 2021, Karen Hinton, who had worked as a press aide to Cuomo in 2000, when the latter was U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, told The Washington Post that Cuomo once summoned her to his hotel room and embraced her even after she tried to push him away. Hinton subsequently told WNYC radio: “He approached me, embraced too tightly, too long, and was aroused. I felt extremely uncomfortable and actually shocked. Nothing had ever happened that way between the two of us.”
The Sixth Woman (Unnamed)
On March 9, 2021, an unnamed staffer employed by the New York State Executive Chamber, accused Cuomo of having inappropriately touched her at the governor’s mansion in 2020. According to the Albany Times Union:
“A female aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo alleges he aggressively groped her in a sexually charged manner after she had been summoned to the Executive Mansion late last year , according to a person with direct knowledge of the woman’s claims. The staff member, whose identity is being withheld by the Times Union, had been called to the mansion under the apparent pretext of having her assist the governor with a minor technical issue involving his mobile phone. They were alone in Cuomo’s private residence on the second floor when he closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her, according to the source…. The additional details describe the most egregious behavior attributed to the governor to date — conduct that could potentially be pursued as a misdemeanor sexual assault charge.
The Ninth Woman, Alyssa McGrath
On March 19, 2021, thirty-three-year-old Alyssa McGrath, who was still employed as an aide to Governor Cuomo, described several instances of alleged inappropriate behavior by Cuomo in an interview with The New York Times. She said, for example, that on one occasion earlier that year, Cuomo had asked McGrath and a fellow female staffer — the unnamed “Sixth Woman” cited above, who had accused Cuomo of having groped her in 2020 — if they were planning to “mingle” with any men during a trip to Florida which they were planning. According to McGrath, Cuomo commonly referred to the pair as “mingle mamas.” McGrath further alleged that during one 2019 encounter in Cuomo’s office, the governor had called her beautiful, in Italian. And during a dictation session in Cuomo’s office later that year, McGrath claimed, the governor had stared down her shirt and commented on a necklace she was wearing. “I put my head down waiting for him to start speaking, and he didn’t start speaking,” raid McGrath. “So I looked up to see what was going on. And he was blatantly looking down my shirt.”
The Tenth Woman, Sherry Vill
In a March 29, 2021 virtual press briefing alongside lawyer Gloria Allred, Sherry Vill, a 55-year-old married mother of three, said that in May 2017, Cuomo — while touring the town of Greece, New York, which had recently been ravaged by floods — visited Vill’s home, at her invitation, to survey the damage it had sustained. During that visit, said Vill, Cuomo had touched her in a highly inappropriate manner. “[T]he governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him,” Vill recalled. “He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek. I was holding my small dog in my arms and I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead he went to squeeze between the dog and mine and kiss me on the other cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner.” Vill added that when Cuomo subsequently told her “That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks,” she was further disgusted: “I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened. But I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about his kissing me. I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss, especially upon meeting someone for the first time.” Vill also stated that as Cuomo was leaving the house, he “stopped, he turned to me and said, ‘You are beautiful.’” “That made me feel even more uncomfortable,” said Vill. “I felt as though he was coming on to me in my own home.”
Cuomo again grabbed Vill’s face and kissed her on the cheek outside the home — an interaction that was recorded on video by the woman’s son. “I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again,” said Vill. “The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable. I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors.” “I know the difference between an innocent gesture and a sexual one,” Vill continued. “I never felt as uncomfortable as I did the day that Gov. Cuomo came to my home. His actions were very overly sexual, highly inappropriate and disrespectful to me and my family.”
Days after Cuomo’s interaction with Mrs. Vill at her home, a member of the governor’s staff left the woman a voicemail asking — with no mention of Vill’s husband or family — if she would be interested in attending an upcoming event with Cuomo. Mrs. Vill also later received a signed letter from Cuomo — addressed solely to her, again with no mention of her husband or family — along with two photographs of the governor shaking her hand inside Vill’s home.
“The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position,” Vill told reporters. “I am still afraid of him, but I am no longer willing to remain silent.”
The Eleventh Woman (Unnamed)
On April 7, 2021, a Cuomo aide who was still working in the governor’s office told the Times Union of Albany, on condition of anonymity, that Cuomo had groped her at his official residence one weekday in November of 2020. “It was almost like I felt like a piece of garbage to him,” she said. “I felt degraded.” Nor was that Cuomo’s first instance of inappropriate behavior, said the woman, who claimed that during the previous two years, the governor had often: (a) given her kisses on the cheek and tight hugs; (b) asked probing questions of an intimate nature; and (c) made sexually suggestive remarks like, “Oh, if you were single, the things that I would do to you.” The woman also reported that when she had been sent to the governor’s mansion to help Cuomo on New Year’s Eve 2019, Cuomo suggested that the two should use his telephone to take a “selfie” photograph of themselves together. She recounted: “I was holding up the phone. I was nervous. As the phone is up I feel him, like, not just sliding his hands, he’s like rubbing my butt cheek, but not saying anything. That was the first blatant move.”
The November 2020 incident allegedly began when the woman was summoned to the mansion one day to help Cuomo resolve a problem with his iPhone. When she arrived the governor’s office on the second floor, he allegedly stood up from behind his desk and began groping her. “That wasn’t just a hug,” the woman said. “He went for it and I kind of like was, ‘Oh, the door is right there.’ … I was mortified that a woman who works here is going to come in and see. … I was terrified of that happening, because that’s not who I am and that’s not what I’m here for. I said to him, I said, ‘You’re going to get us in trouble.’ I didn’t know what else to say. … It was pretty much like ‘What are you doing?’ That’s when he slammed the door [shut]. He said, ‘I don’t care.’”
“He came right back and he pulled me close and all I remember is seeing his hand, his big hand,” the woman continued, describing how Cuomo then reached under her blouse and grasped one of her breasts. “I don’t remember actually saying the word ‘Stop.’ I think I said, ‘You’re crazy.’ I do remember saying that, and that’s when he ultimately stopped. Me saying ‘You’re crazy’ — that was definitely not something that he wants to hear. It definitely was a hit to his ego. And then it was almost like instantly he was done. He turned around and walked back to his desk. He didn’t say anything. I walked myself out to the front door and nothing was said.”
The woman then told the Times Union that a month after the November 2020 incident, when she was taking dictation for the governor at his Capitol office, he made reference to the aforementioned groping incident. Said the woman: “Near the end of it [the dictation session], he looked up at me and he said, ‘You know, by the way, you know people talk in the office and you can never tell anyone about anything we talk about or, you know, anything, right?’ I said, ‘I understand.’ He said, ‘Well, you know, I could get in big trouble, you know that.’ I said, ‘I understand, governor.’ And he said, ‘OK.’”
The woman said she interpreted those comments by Cuomo as a threat. “I was a liability, and he knew that,” she said. The woman further told reporters that as a result of the stress she had experienced because of the governor’s actions, she had become emotionally fragile, lost a great deal of weight, and grown deeply concerned about her job security.
New York Journalist Says Cuomo “Terrorized” Him to Conceal Nursing-Home Coronavirus Crisis
In a February 22, 2021 op-ed in the New York Post, former City & State magazine editor-in-chief Morgan Pehme recounted an April 2014 incident that had occurred when his publication was prepared to run a story that Cuomo objected to. Some excerpts:
- “It was 4:30 a.m., so I pulled the bathroom door shut in my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment to answer the phone without waking my then-5-year-old. On the line was Melissa DeRosa, Gov. Cuomo’s then-communications director, now his second-in-command. She was threatening to destroy me…. While the April 2014 call I received from DeRosa didn’t come directly from the governor, I knew it bore the full weight of his power. City & State, the New York politics magazine I edited at the time, was about to publish a story exposing Cuomo’s machinations to distort the final report issued by the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. The manipulation we documented put the lie to the governor’s public proclamation that it would be a fully independent body with the authority to probe graft in Albany wherever it found it. In reality, as soon as the commission touched the governor’s own office, he hastily shut it down.”
- “I started getting pushback from the governor’s office as soon as we called requesting comment. In a barrage of calls, his media handlers pushed me to spike the article, alternately approaching me with carrot (a hot exclusive to be named later) and stick. By 4:30 a.m. — our piece was scheduled to publish at 5 — I was only getting the stick. Seven years later, I don’t recall precisely everything DeRosa hurled at me, though I’m positive she vowed to ‘destroy’ my career and take revenge on my publication. I remember vividly how I felt: scared. I had no reason to think these were idle threats. I was fully aware of the governor’s volcanic temper and track record of vindictiveness. If he wanted to crush me, he could and likely would…. [We nevertheless] published the piece, like the press is supposed to do in the face of intimidation.”
- “Shrewdly, the governor rings up reporters out of the blue to praise them when he likes what they write. This personal touch wins him goodwill. Receiving such a call is something of a rite of passage for Albany reporters. Unfortunately, so too is getting a call from the governor when he’s breathing fire…. [T]he abuse he privately metes out amounts to a systematic campaign to chill negative coverage of his administration. And it works. Editors kill legitimate stories because of his threats; reporters shy away from promising tips; sources stay silent.”
- “For years, entertainment reporters justified their silence about the #MeToo monsters in the industry by telling themselves that ‘everyone knows.’ But the public didn’t know. Many of the perpetrators’ future victims didn’t know. And so these thugs went on operating with impunity. Until last week, most New Yorkers didn’t know about Cuomo’s despicable ways. But they should have. Journalists are agents of accountability. It’s time for New York’s reporters to step up and tell their own Cuomo stories.”
Leaked Audio Shows That Cuomo Threatened to Publicly Compare Critic to “Child Rapist”
In February 2021, The New York Times reported that in a 2018 telephone conversation between Cuomo and Working Families Party (WFP) leader Bill Lipton, Cuomo had compared Lipton to “a child rapist” because of WFP’s seemingly tepid endorsement of him. The background was as follows: In the 2018 Democratic primary, WFP backed the gubernatorial campaign of actress Cynthia Nixon over Cuomo. It was only after Nixon lost, that WFP decided to support Cuomo — on the theory that he was a better alternative than Republican Marc Molinaro in the general election. That allegedly prompted Cuomo to tell Lipton: “If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m gonna say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist.’ How about that?” But Cuomo denied that he had ever said that.
On March 19, 2021, however, a New York Times podcast played the audio of the aforementioned 2018 phone call, where Cuomo could in fact be heard telling Lipton: “If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m gonna say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist.’ How about that?” In the same audio recording, Lipton replied by telling Cuomo: “Governor, I apologize, but I gotta clarify one thing. You’re free to say whatever you want, governor, but I just want to be clear. Our line is going to be that we have differences with you, but our differences with Republicans are far greater.” Not satisfied with Lipton’s explanation, Cuomo angrily repeated: “I think you’re better than a child rapist.”
On March 20, 2021, a spokesman for the governor told Fox News that Cuomo did not remember the exchange with Lipton.
Cuomo’s Family Received “Prioritized” Coronavirus Testing
On March 24, 2021, the Albany Times Union reported:
“High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said….
“[O]ne of the people familiar with the matter said that the people with close ties to the governor, including his relatives, would have their samples moved to the front of the line … and be given priority. They were referred to as ‘critical samples.’”
One of the Cuomo family members who allegedly received priority testing privileges was the governor’s younger brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo.