At the beginning of the pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed like a national hero. At a time when it seemed the federal government was sitting on its hands, and many other states failed to implement even the most basic of COVID-19 protocols, Cuomo rose to prominence for the actions he took to deal with the pandemic, from closing non-essential businesses to his daily press briefings.
The national attention led to speculation he would run for President, or at least be given a cabinet position. Many Democrats held him up as the standard of leadership during a crisis. He even found time to write a book about how to be a good leader.
Recently, that’s all come crumbling down.
On Jan. 28, the New York State attorney general released a statement that Cuomo’s administration had undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes due to the pandemic, perhaps by up to 50%. While Cuomo had been facing criticism for his handling of nursing homes for the past year, he had previously dismissed the complaints. Over the past month, however, the charges leveled against him have gotten more and more serious.
There are allegations that he threatened fellow Democrats with political retribution if they did not cover for him. Allegations that Cuomo intentionally withheld data to prevent the Justice Department under Trump from investigating New York. Nine Democratic members of the New York State assembly signed a letter charging the governor with obstruction of justice. The FBI and the Attorney General have launched an investigation against Cuomo’s coronavirus taskforce.
None of this, however, has convinced Cuomo he needs to say he’s sorry. In a press conference on Monday, Cuomo admitted “we made a mistake,” but refused to apologize.
Throughout the pandemic, Andrew Cuomo has been preaching moral responsibility to his fellow New Yorkers. Yet he refuses to follow his own advice. If he expects to maintain his moral authority, he needs to stop trying to cover up things that happened. He needs to fully cooperate with authorities and actually apologize for the terrible things that happened under his watch. If he wants to accept praise for New York’s successes, he needs to accept criticism for its failures.
A month ago, when asked once again about the nursing home scandal, Cuomo got irate, asking “But who cares? 33 [percent]. 28 [percent]. Died in a hospital. Died in a nursing home. They died.”
From all of us— all of us who lost friends or family to the coronavirus, all of us who watched the country grind to a halt, all of us who paid tribute to the essential workers who put their lives on the line daily, all of us who expect our leaders to practice what they preach, I’d just like to say:
We care, Governor Cuomo. We care.