By Titi Afolabi – Student Journalist
Looking back on the COVID-19 pandemic, many republican states were under fire in the press regarding the handling of state regulations from mask-wearing, to social distancing, to the closing and opening of local businesses. Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, unlike other elected officials, was consistently praised and awarded great compliments in the media. Many people depicted him as an exceptional leader during the pandemic in one of the most densely populated states in the country, so much so that he capitalized off the pandemic by writing the book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the early months of the pandemic, Governor Cuomo gave daily briefs addressing the state of the virus in New York, talking about the economic and emotional impact that it has been taking on people. These briefings, something that the former president of the United States should have been doing, made Andrew Cuomo one of the most loved and respectable governors in the country.
However, what on the surface seemed like exceptional handling of the pandemic, quickly turned into an interrogation of how Cuomo and his administration were counting the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state of New York. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “During the beginning of the pandemic nursing homes were identified as high-risk locations for the outbreak and spreading of the virus.” As this public knowledge surfaced, nursing home deaths were on the rise. Following this event, New York health officials reported the state reaching more than 9,000 deaths by June, 2020. As these numbers were concrete, Cuomo and his officials did not publicize this information and deliberately acted to keep it under the radar, rewriting the report of COVID related deaths in the state to not include those in nursing home. Cuomo’s defense of these actions was completely incompetent, citing that “he was fearful former president Trump would politicize the data if fully revealed.”
The FBI has begun an investigation to try and uncover whether Cuomo and his team had provided false data on resident deaths to the Justice Department. The investigation is still ongoing. Senior officials have questioned Cuomo and subpoenaed his office for documents and data collected during the earlier months of the pandemic.
As this has continued to unfold, New York Attorney General, Letitia James has also begun another inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by Cuomo. Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett, Karen Hinton, Ana Liss, Jessica Bakeman, Alyssa McGrath, Sherry Vill, and another unnamed woman have all reported some level of sexual harassment or misconduct targeted towards them. Cuomo with a lackadaisical response stated, “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny.” He followed, “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal, and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.” He made clear that he never inappropriately touched anyone. Many people have come out saying it was not a true apology or adequate level of accountability, and have requested that he resign. The investigation is still ongoing, but questions have been raised regarding the media’s attention to Cuomo’s misconduct.
Many local journalists and republican leaders have been arguing for investigations into nursing home deaths since last year and only a few months ago did any “liberal” media bring some attention to it. Still, there has been a lack of acknowledgment for the claims made against him and his officials. It begs the question of whether or not the media is ready and willing to hold Cuomo and his elected officials responsible for the way they handled the pandemic. Nevertheless, investigations are still ongoing.