By Finn McGillivray
According to Federalist No.51, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” With the news of six women now accusing him of sexual misconduct, it is easy to see that Andrew Cuomo is no angel. Yet, if you were to tune into any of the major news networks covering him in the previous year, no one could fault you for believing he was.
In response to those very accusations, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo began his March 1 show by saying, “Obviously, I’m aware of what’s going on with my brother. And, obviously, I cannot cover it, because he is my brother.” Considering the media is an essential external control on government, it stands to reason that news anchors shouldn’t cover their immediate relatives, especially ones surrounded by scandal. However, on several occasions in 2020, Chris Cuomo did exactly that.
Cuomo’s original scandal, which is what led prominent members of both parties to call for Governor Cuomo’s impeachment and removal of emergency powers prior to the first allegation of sexual harassment, was his coverup of COVID data. The data in question was the NY Department of Health’s reporting of COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes. The Cuomo administration failed to count nursing home patients who obtained COVID in nursing homes but were moved to hospitals before their death, under this category. According to a Jan. 28th report, it was this practice that led the New York Office of the Attorney General to conclude that “COVID-19 resident deaths associated with nursing homes in New York state appear to be undercounted by DOH by approximately 50 percent.”
This troubling finding was made worse by a damning admission from Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa in a closed-door meeting with Democratic lawmakers on Feb. 10, 2021. When asked why it took the administration so long to provide Trump’s Justice Department with the true number of nursing home deaths, she stated that they weren’t sure if it was “going to be used against us and we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” according to a transcript of the meeting.
Why was the Cuomo administration so determined to keep this data from public view? After all, though the numbers may have been off by thousands, the only thing in question was where these individuals died. The answer dates back to March 2020. The pandemic was beginning to take its toll, and places like New York were bracing for shortages of resources and hospital capacity. It was in response to this problem that Governor Cuomo issued an order, stating, “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. [Nursing homes] are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.” The obvious problem with this policy, as was noted at the time in a statement from The Society for Post-Acute and Long Term Care Medicine, was that it was “over-reaching, not consistent with science, unenforceable, and beyond all, not in the least consistent with patient safety principles.” The Associated Press now estimates that under this order, over 9,000 patients were sent back into nursing homes with COVID.
In the months following the order being quietly rescinded by the Governor in May 2020, the story didn’t go away, although the mainstream media never cared to cover it. The continuous stream of New York Post articles from the time proves as much. Yet, the Governor continued to hide nursing home deaths throughout the summer and fall, all the while ignoring requests to make the data public. He even had the audacity to write a book touting his success in fighting COVID (hardly the actions of a man who feared being held to account).
On May 20, 2020, the day after Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called for an investigation into the Governor’s handling of nursing homes, Chris Cuomo used an interview with his brother to perform a prop-comedy bit making fun of the size of his nose. The following month he would go on to thank the Governor saying, “I hope you feel good about what you did for your people because I know they appreciate it.”
Later in October, while members of the New York legislature were busy collecting signatures for their petition demanding the Governor disclose the full nursing home death numbers, Cuomo was shamelessly promoting his book on various networks. On his appearance on “The View” Wendy Williams referred to it as “a guide to how to deal with this pandemic.”
Why was the media so determined to hold up Cuomo as an incredible leader in the fight against the coronavirus? This was made clear during the recent Emmys in which Governor Cuomo was hilariously given an award “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world.” In a video compilation featuring various celebrities all thanking the Governor, comedian Billy Crystal said “In the darkest days of the pandemic your daily briefings, live from New York, gave us hope, gave us clarity, gave us the truth, and gave us something we were not getting from Washington: leadership.” I think it’s fair to say that this sentiment mirrors that of the Democratic Party, and subsequently the media which so often carries their water.
In the same meeting in which she incriminated the Governor, Melissa Derosa said in response to why the Cuomo administration ignored requests for data from the DOJ “The letter comes in at the end of August and right around the same time, President Trump turns this into a giant political football. He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes.” In other words, because it would serve to help President Trump politically, Cuomo’s administration couldn’t possibly disclose the fact that their policies likely led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of seniors.
Considering how blaming hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths on Trump was the key platform of then-candidate Biden’s campaign, it’s easy to see why the idea of anyone else being at fault was never even considered by those on his side of the aisle. From the beginning of the pandemic, Cuomo emerged as the anti-Trump for those who wanted so desperately to see President Trump fail. Once he had been branded as the “Luv Gov.” (an unfortunate nickname in hindsight), and with some including Trever Noah and Ellen DeGeneres even calling themselves “Cuomosexuals,” there was no going back on the narrative.
My point is not to defend any of Trump’s actions on COVID, but rather to point out how our media’s casting of heroes and villains created an obvious blind spot. As our country continues to become more divided, we are quickly losing the ability to police our own sides out of fear that such actions will benefit our opponents. Over the past year, many have rightfully expressed disappointment in the politicization of an issue that originally seemed so easy to unite against. While certain politicians have had a hand in this, it was our media’s unwillingness to call balls and strikes which doomed us from the start.
Just as it was true in 1787, our government is administered by men over men. The Cuomo story reminds us that even during times of crisis, there are no angels.