Cianan Meagher, Staff
Header Image: MarketWatch
Over the past two weeks, a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have come out. The allegations have ranged from inappropriate comments that contributed to an uncomfortable work environment to violations of personal boundaries and inappropriate touching. It should go without saying that these allegations, if found to be true, are contemptible. I have to admit that it is somewhat gratifying to see such a media firestorm around a figure so deserving of one, especially after being so shamelessly fawned over by the press just a year prior. However, I am somewhat dissatisfied that Governor Cuomo seems to be getting off relatively lightly, all things considered. While these allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace are explosive for the Democrat, it seems as if this story has completely overshadowed the much more scandalous story concerning the Governor’s office: New York’s mismanagement of nursing homes during the pandemic and subsequent attempts to cover up the true number of deaths reported from them.
Cuomo’s direction of New York’s response to the coronavirus made the governor very popular with the media last year.
A report released by The New York State Attorney General’s office revealed that the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes had been massively underreported by officials in Cuomo’s office. The report states that as much as 50 percent of COVID-related nursing home deaths were omitted from official tallies of nursing home related deaths released by New York State. Following the release of the report, Cuomo’s aide, Melissa DeLaroma, had reportedly met on a private video conference call with Democrat lawmakers to apologize for the suppression of numbers, citing fears by the Governor’s Office that the enormous amount of deaths would be used against them by then-President Trump to justify an investigation by the Justice Department. These developments are leaving questions about the Governor’s controversial March 25, 2020 New York State Department of Health directive to admit COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, using them as overflow testing and treatment centers. This stunning political cover-up is not only a flagrant abuse of power, but it could also have a serious impact on medical statistics that are crucial for those researching the virus and qualitative analyses of the pandemic. Such a statistical aberration has potential reverberations that travel much further than New York State lines, as this data is used by experts across the country and around the world in the fight against the novel disease.
To be clear, the allegations of workplace impropriety should be taken seriously and, with the sheer volume of alleged victims coming forward in the past month alone (7 at the time of writing), it is definitely a matter that deserves an investigation and the public scorn it has earned Governor Cuomo. However, the media frenzy that has surrounded this story has eclipsed a much larger offense. With all due respect and sympathy to Cuomo’s alleged victims, I think the thousands of lives he has directly or indirectly affected, or maybe even ended, with his handling of nursing homes and the flagrant abuse of power in trying to cover up his administration’s missteps, is a scandal of a much higher magnitude. Yet, it seems as if the Governor and the press would both prefer to address these more salacious accusations of sexual harassment, with Cuomo last addressing criticism of the nursing home scandal almost over a month ago. Cuomo has also been quick to deny the multitude of the allegations of sexual harassment against him; and yet, media coverage surrounding the former seems to have been completely supplanted by the comparatively less severe implications of the latter.
Bearing witness to it all, I have been disgusted by the partisan pandering by the media that has been at play throughout this pandemic. I was incensed, in particular, by the relatively lax scrutiny Governor Cuomo received compared to former President Trump during the throes of lockdown when, in my opinion, both seemed to be equally, if not divergently, incompotent in their responses to the crisis and equally caustic and dismissive to their critics along the way. Over the past year, Republican governors, such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, received heaps of criticism over their handling of the pandemic, some of which was completely justified, some overly-critical, in my opinion. Conversely, if you flipped on the news less than a year ago it would have seemed as if Cuomo, the media darling and “America’s Governor,” was beyond reproach. In reality, he was just as, if not more guilty of, mismanagement of this crisis than others. It is unlikely Cuomo will be winning over progressives anytime soon considering the circumstances of his current controversy, and his puzzling statement during a recent press conference that he was not “elected by the politicians, [but] by the people” in a response to a question about the multiple Democratic legislators calling for his resignation reads to me as a pivot towards more populist, Trumpian politics. It remains to be seen what kind of future, if any, lies ahead for Governor Cuomo.
The takeaway of this whole situation should be that we cannot let party lines and partisan rhetoric distract us from abuse of power by officials we politically align ourselves with. I pray that the independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the Governor can proceed unimpeded, and that he will resign if these allegations are found to be true, but I also hope that he is forced to answer for his administration’s missteps at the onset of the pandemic and their reckless dereliction of duty in the tabulation of COVID-related nursing home deaths.