Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Flushing) has been criticizing Gov. Cuomo’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes for nearly a year, but his latest comments finally sent the governor over the edge.
“He berated me, he yelled at me,” Kim said Feb. 18 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” referring to a call he received from Cuomo a week earlier. “ He told me that, you know, my career would be over, he's been biting his tongue for months against me.”
According to the assemblymember, Cuomo also slipped in several warnings, such as, “You have not seen my wrath,” “I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished” and “You will be destroyed.”
The call between the two Queens men followed a Jan. 28 report by state Attorney General Letitia James, which revealed that the Department of Health had been drastically underdisclosing virus-related deaths in nursing homes. According to her findings, the state hadn’t been including the number of deaths that took place after residents were transferred to hospitals from the homes. The true death toll was 50 percent higher than what the state had revealed, according to the investigation.
Cuomo defended the accuracy of the data, claiming that the low numbers were what the state had access to at the time. It took officials time to fulfill information requests pertaining to where a nursing home resident died if it had not been inside the facility, he said Feb. 16. He also blamed the delay on the Department of Justice investigation into his March 25 executive order that required nursing homes to accept new residents even if they have or are suspected of a Covid-19 diagnosis. The directive was reversed May 10.
Cuomo said he understands now that the state should have been more transparent with the slow process.
Kim rejected Cuomo’s excuses, publicly speaking out against the governor on social media. Kim reiterated his longtime belief that Cuomo’s actions pertaining to nursing homes during the pandemic revolved around catering to for-profit facilities.
“As legislators we have a duty to uncover the truth behind the nursing home deaths and the governor's explanations do not add up,” Kim said in a Feb. 17 statement. “While he claims he was taking time to answer the Justice Department, we saw him gallivant around on a book tour and victory lap across prime time cable shows. Again, all while his top aide deliberately hid the information in fear of political and legal consequences.”
Kim alleged that Cuomo asked him to put out a completely different type of statement — one that would back up claims that the data delay was due to the state dealing with the DOJ investigation. Instead, Kim introduced a bill that would repeal Cuomo’s emergency powers, claiming he abused them.
“The governor can smear me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his fatally incompetent management. But these facts are not going away because they are the facts — unacceptable facts that hold him accountable."
A senior advisor for the governor told media outlets that Kim is lying, but the assemblymember has the support of Mayor de Blasio behind him.
“That's classic Andrew Cuomo,” the mayor said Thursday morning on MSNBC. “A lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls. You know, the bullying is nothing new. I believe Ron Kim, and it's very, very sad … I know him, he's a good public servant. I've always seen him as a person of integrity, but it's just the script is exactly what a lot of us have heard before. It's not a surprise. It's sad. It's not the way people should be treated. And, you know, a lot of people get intimidated by that. I give him credit for not being intimidated.”