New York Lawmaker Says Cuomo Threatened Him; Governor Says He’s Liarby Martin Z Braun, Keshia Clukey · Bloomberg
- Assembly member Kim says Cuomo concealed nursing home deaths
- Queens Democrat is seeking to strip Cuomo’s emergency powers
New York Assemblyman Ron Kim said he was threatened by Governor Andrew Cuomo after criticizing his administration’s handling of nursing-home deaths during the pandemic. A spokesman for Cuomo called the lawmaker a liar.
Kim said Cuomo called him last Thursday, yelled at him for 10 minutes and threatened to “destroy” him, the New York Times and CNN reported. An aide in Kim’s office confirmed the lawmaker’s account and said he wasn’t immediately available to comment. The conversation with Cuomo took place after Kim told the New York Post that an admission by Cuomo’s top aide that the administration withheld nursing-home data from lawmakers made it appear as if the governor were trying to dodge incriminating evidence.
”Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi, who said he was in the same room as the governor when the phone call occurred. “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration.”
Kim, a Democrat like Cuomo, represents Flushing, a Queens neighborhood hit hard by the virus. The lawmaker has said he believes his own uncle died from Covid in a nursing home last year. Kim has accused Cuomo of covering up the extent of pandemic-related nursing-home deaths, and has joined more than a dozen lawmakers calling for an investigation into his administration and a rollback of Cuomo’s emergency powers.
Earlier Wednesday, Cuomo denied his administration did anything illegal or unethical with regard to Covid in nursing homes. He said his administration takes responsibility for failing to better communicate with state lawmakers and the general public. “My administration created the void, and that I feel bad about,” he said in a virus briefing. “Not illegal, not unethical, but just failed people in that moment.”
Cuomo said Kim’s accusations of a coverup were “100% wrong and he knows it.”
Kim released a general statement on Wednesday: “The governor can smear me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his fatally incompetent management. But these facts are not going away because they are the facts — unacceptable facts that hold him accountable.”
Kim has called on the governor to apologize to family members for a Health Department order that urged nursing homes to admit recovering coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals.
That order may have put residents at risk, state Attorney General Letitia James, another Democrat, said in a report last month. Her report also said Cuomo’s administration may have under-counted coronavirus-related deaths in New York nursing homes by as much as 50%.
Before James released her report, the Health Department reported 8,700 nursing-home deaths due to Covid-19. In the last month the Cuomo administration has almost doubled the count to more than 15,000 after adding already reported deaths that occurred in hospitals.