In politics, they say the cover-up is worse than the crime. Usually that’s true, but not when it comes to the Covid-19 nursing home death scandal surrounding Gov. Cuomo. Nothing could be as bad as his insistence that elderly patients with the coronavirus be sent into places where they could easily spread it and kill thousands. But Cuomo is working hard to make the old cliche come true.
He spent a lot of time Wednesday at his daily propaganda — err, press — briefing tearing into state Assemblyman Ron Kim for things like flip-flopping on a law to tighten up nail salon regulations. No one cares about such things while we’re facing the tremendous crises of today, but Cuomo decided he had to attack Kim after the lawmaker revealed how the governor had threatened him over the phone. The reason? Kim isn’t buying his excuses when it comes to the nursing home fiasco, one of whose likely victims was his uncle. Kim also represents the vast bulk of the area, ZIP code 11354 in Flushing, that has seen the worst per-capita death rate from Covid-19 of any part of Queens, as the Chronicle exclusively reported last week.
Cuomo doesn’t care about that. He cares about coming across as the man with a plan, the big dog, the one with all the answers, as he did for much of last spring. Yet even as he was earning kudos for his solemn, fact-filled daily updates on the coronavirus, people in nursing homes and other elder-care facilities were dying at far greater rates than the state was admitting. We finally learned much of the truth from state Attorney General Letitia James’ report on the deaths, and some more from top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa’s admission to lawmakers that the administration stonewalled them over politics, and the fear that the Trump Justice Department would investigate the disaster.
Kim called Cuomo out for trying to shift the blame to nursing home operators and staff and called on him to apologize to the families of those lost. Instead, “Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa and what she said,” Kim told CNN. The governor told Kim he would “destroy” him.
We applaud Kim for standing up to Cuomo and support any investigation, state or federal, into what happened. Cuomo cannot just bully his way out of this. Nor can he rely on the publishing house that gave him a book deal, the glitterati that gave him an Emmy or the media that gave him a pass. It’s time he took responsibility for what he did.