The Despicable Andrew Cuomo
In May of last year, Chris Cuomo had his brother, the Governor of New York, on his prime time show; where the two joked about the ongoing COVID pandemic. Chris played a video of the elder Cuomo getting swabbed for the virus and joked about Andrew needing a bigger swab because of the size of his nose; with Chris proceeding to bring out a series of ever-larger novelty swabs to drive his point home.
At the time, New York was being ravaged by Coronavirus harder than any other state in America. Governor Cuomo, having first resisted calls to lockdown, had failed to lockdown in time to effectively contain the virus and, in signing an executive order mandating that COVID-positive patients be sent into nursing homes, he had effectively signed a death warrant for thousands of his state’s most vulnerable, elderly citizens. At the same time, he was agreeing to a budget that would cut $2.5 Billion a year from the state’s Medicaid budget — stretching the already over-stretched healthcare sector to the brink of breaking-point.
At it’s worst — back in April — , COVID was killing 1000 New Yorkers a day. For reference, the UK — whose population is many multiples of that of New York’s and whose COVID response has been far from exemplary — was averaging less daily deaths during the same time period. Even over a month later, when Chris Cuomo interviewed his brother on CNN, the curve was far from being flattened — over the course of Chris Cuomo’s hour-long show alone, a further 9 New Yorkers would have died of COVID, while a further 6000 lay in hospital with the virus; not knowing whether they would live or die. While Andrew Cuomo, on prime time television, went red in the face from struggling to contain his laughter, his citizens were dying; lying in hospital barely able to breathe, as health care workers struggled to deal with the unprecedented pressure being placed upon them.
It was a grotesquely striking contrast to see the governor treated with kid gloves not just from his own brother, but by the media and Democratic establishment at large, who used his daily press briefings to lionize him and appoint him the ultimate anti-Trump, while at the same time New Yorkers were sharing en-masse stories of heart-wrenching suffering; people who had lost multiple family members in a matter of weeks and military veterans who were buried alone without ceremonial honors; as the state struggled to deal with the sheer number of dead bodies that were piling up.
Cuomo’s book on handling a pandemic stands at 320 pages in length, but would’ve been much more accurate if it just simply contained the words “Don’t do anything I did”
The ‘stanning’ of politicians is nothing new — the Trump years saw one of America’s largest two parties dissolve into little more than a personality cult — but the idolisation of Cuomo felt particularly depraved. Cuomo wasn’t just another useless, do-nothing politician, he was an incredibly powerful man, facing the test of a lifetime and failing miserably — to the extent that he ever utilised his power, he utilised it to harm, not help, his citizens. It was especially enraging to see who was deifying Cuomo; the Democrats, the media, the #Resistance — the same people who would’ve gone red with rage if Cuomo’s actions had instead been perpetrated by the then-President. It was startling to see the same media institutions who, rightfully, were ruthless in their scrutiny of Trump, not even try to hold the Governor to account.
The media, who — in the face of their Trump coverage — had repeatedly claimed to be impartial were undermining themselves in real time; showing their true colors more than ever before. Taking a premature victory lap for Cuomo, CNN’s Bakari Sellers tweeted “Y’all almost had Cynthia Nixon. This is why experience matters” (in reference to Cuomo’s former opponent) and full time Tweeter Soledad O’Brien responded to Janice Dean’s criticisms of Cuomo by dismissively tweeting “Meteorologist weighs in” (Dean is the Fox News meteorologist and lost both her in laws to COVID as a direct result of Cuomo’s actions).
Sellers’ and O’Brien’s tweets perfectly encapsulated what everyone hates about the media. Sellers’ tweet demonstrated the pervasive idea that experience always matters more than conviction and principles — even if the aforementioned experience has only been used to game the system and cause great harm to the general population. Meanwhile, O’Brien’s dismissal of Dean represented the very worst of the media’s elitism — despite her own harrowing personal experience of Covid, Dean wasn’t seen by O’Brien as having a good-enough job to be worthy of comment on Cuomo’s handling of the virus. By this standard, who else does O’Brien and her colleagues in the media view as unworthy of criticising dear leader Cuomo — are minimum wage workers too ‘inferior’ to have their say? What about stay-at-home parents? Or teachers?
When Lindsey Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, the media-at-large brushed over her story; reducing her to little more than a punchline on SNL
It cannot be overstated how damaging and disastrous the consequences are of how the media failed to adequately hold Cuomo’s feet to the fire. The CNN’s and MSNBC’s of the world have loved nothing more than to spend the last four years talking about how important the role of the press is, but when they had the opportunity to scrutinise an incredibly dangerous leader, they failed to do so. In the absence of such scrutiny, Cuomo was allowed to position himself as a leader on Coronavirus; he even ended up writing a best-selling book on handling the pandemic. The book stands at 320 pages in length, but would’ve been much more accurate if it just simply contained the words “Don’t do anything I did”.
We’ve known long before the pandemic who Cuomo was, and his disastrous handling of Coronavirus should have left no doubt as to what type of leader he was. Yet it didn’t. Even in November 2020 — when Cuomo’s failings were coming into even greater focus — it was announced that Cuomo would be receiving an Emmy for his daily COVID briefings. After over 13,000 New Yorkers died in nursing homes from Coronavirus under his watch, he is still being rewarded for whitewashing his failings. When Cuomo said “Who cares? They died”, it was clear that large portions of the media did not in fact care.
When Cuomo said “Who cares? They died”, it was clear that large portions of the media did not in fact care.
Not just did the media not care about his handling of COVID, they didn’t seem to care about any of his failings. When Lindsey Boylan — a former Cuomo aide and Manhattan politician — accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, the media-at-large brushed over her story; reducing her to little more than a punchline on SNL.
In recent days and weeks, stories of Cuomo’s failings have seemingly reached a fever pitch. A top aide for Cuomo recently admitted that nursing home deaths had been covered up in an attempt to avoid an investigation by the Department of Justice, while Ron Kim — a New York Assemblyman — claimed Cuomo personally threatened him. Meanwhile, a former aide — who worked for a rival campaign against Cuomo — claimed that someone working on behalf of Cuomo had catfished and outed him after he protested against the now-Governor.
With stories like these rapidly building up, it’s becoming impossible for the media to ignore Cuomo’s many shortcomings, but that doesn’t make them any less complicit in his failures. The media’s entire job is to hold the powerful to account, they shouldn’t have to be forced into doing so. The last year has showcased multiple examples of the media’s failure to do their job — from their reluctance to scrutinise Andrew Cuomo to their disregard for the sexual harassment/assault allegations against then-candidate Biden. Once again, we have been failed by the people who are supposed to work for us.