Andrew Cuomo’s Office Insists He Was Completely Calm When He Threatened to Ruin Someone’s Life for Criticizing Him
Last October, New York governor Andrew Cuomo published a book called American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic, which some people thought was slightly premature given that the coronavirus pandemic was far from over and there would probably still be lessons to learn. For instance: how to react when criticized by a fellow politician over an alleged cover-up of the scope of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. As it turns out, the answer is not “fly off the handle and threaten to destroy the guy’s life,” as Cuomo reportedly did over the weekend.
The New York Times reports that hours after Assemblyman Ron Kim told the New York Post on Thursday that it looked as though the governor’s administration had failed to comply with a request for data on nursing home deaths because it was “trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence,“ Cuomo called Kim at home and basically threatened to ruin him, according to Kim. The assemblyman went on to say that the governor opened the call by ominously asking, “Are you an honorable man?” and then proceeded to scream at him for 10 minutes. “He goes off about how I hadn’t seen his wrath and anger, that he would destroy me and he would go out tomorrow and start telling how bad of a person I am and I would be finished and how he had bit his tongue about me for months,” Kim said. “This was all yelling. It wasn’t a pleasant tone.” Then, Kim told the Times, Cuomo demanded he issue a new statement saying he had misheard the governor’s secretary, Melissa DeRosa, who had told lawmakers that the Cuomo administration had decided not to respond to their request for data on nursing home deaths because the Department of Justice had made a similar request, and they were worried that then president Donald Trump would open an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the situation. “Basically, we froze,” DeRosa reportedly said.
In his recounting to the Times, Kim said he felt bad for DeRosa and had attempted to get the Post to remove his quotes prior to receiving Cuomo’s call. But he was not going to issue a new statement contradicting what he’d been told in the meeting. “Basically, I saw a crime and he’s asking me to say that I did not see that crime,” Kim said. “I heard what I heard and I can’t lie.” That answer apparently didn’t sit right with the governor, who reportedly called Kim four more times on Saturday. (Kim ignored the calls because he was understandably stressed out by the situation and felt uncomfortable about Cuomo threatening to go medieval on his ass if he didn’t change his story.)
That apparently left Cuomo no choice but to make good on his threat:
In a remarkable retort, the governor used his [Wednesday] press briefing to lob allegations of impropriety at the assemblyman, saying that he and his administration have had a “long and hostile relationship” with Mr. Kim, now in his fifth term.… In lengthy remarks, Mr. Cuomo also accused the assemblyman of a “continuing racket” soliciting donations from nail salon owners, who were upset about a 2015 nail-salon reform law that he helped craft. “I believe it was unethical if not illegal,” Mr. Cuomo said, suggesting that Mr. Kim was engaging in “pay to play.”
A spokesman for the governor, when asked about Mr. Cuomo’s call with Mr. Kim, initially suggested that the governor’s remarks on Wednesday had sufficiently addressed the issue. But after this article was published, the spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, said that Mr. Cuomo had only asked Mr. Kim to clarify his remarks because the assemblyman had told him that they were taken out of context in the Post article. Cuomo officials added that the governor never said that he would “destroy” Mr. Kim, and characterized the conversation between the two men as “calm,” denying the governor yelled.