State Republican leaders Thursday asked New Yorkers to call and complain to representatives who continue to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the heels of new details about his administration overriding state health officials to conceal the total number of COVID-19 deaths in state congregate facilities.
State Republican Committee Chairman Nicholas Langworthy on Thursday blasted the Democratic-led state Legislature and lawmakers who have not pressed Cuomo to step down or continue to protect him in the wake of a multitude of investigations, including a federal probe into the state’s counting and reporting of public COVID-19 death data.
“As his nursing home cover-up continues to unravel and the scandals pile up, so do Andrew Cuomo’s lies,” Langworthy said Thursday inside the Onondaga County Republican Committee Headquarters in East Syracuse. “He’s been lying to New Yorkers for well over a year.”
Langworthy asked New Yorkers to call lawmakers who continue to support or appear with Cuomo in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, the governor’s potential use of taxpayer-funded resources to publish his pandemic memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and other issues.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, spoke at Cuomo’s briefing Thursday at The Belle Center in Buffalo.
Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, appeared at a briefing with Cuomo in Syracuse on Tuesday.
“I’m here to say shame on them,” Langworthy said, also criticizing Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, for her comments last year that the controversy surrounding nursing home deaths was a hindrance to her campaign for re-election.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, called for the governor to resign in early March, and continues to maintain that position, she said April 20. Stewart-Cousins appeared and spoke at Cuomo’s briefing in Yonkers the following day.
“Sen. May and Sen. Magnarelli are complicit in Cuomo’s corruption. Every single resident of their districts should be outraged by their inaction,” Langworthy said. “They follow him right over the cliff. They are a total embarrassment in the New York state Legislature. ... They are sending a message to every constituent that Andrew Cuomo is more important than they are.
“We never gave up fighting for Cuomo’s victims — we never stopped fighting to uncover the truth about the deaths in New York’s nursing homes,” he added. “Cuomo must be held accountable, and so too, must the people who protect him.”
Langworthy’s Thursday morning plea was inspired by a New York Times report released late Wednesday that revealed Cuomo’s aides repeatedly overruled state Health Department officials for at least five months last year and prevented the release of full nursing home death data.
The governor and his administration intentionally did not publish a scientific paper from Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker with the total count, and blocked the release of two DOH-drafted letters to the Legislature, according to the Times report.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James released a report in late January that concluded Cuomo’s administration reported an undercount of state coronavirus deaths in congregate facilities by up to 50% — especially of residents who died outside their facility in a hospital.
Cuomo defended his administration’s nursing home count as accurate during a briefing in Buffalo on Thursday.
“We wanted to make sure the number was accurate,” Cuomo said, citing an ongoing DOH audit of congregate facility deaths. “The concern from the state was we provide accurate numbers, and that was what was most important.
“You know what the lawyers say when the (U.S. Department of Justice) opens an investigation? Be careful,” the governor added. “Be careful what you say because it can be used against you. It was a political football.”
The governor reiterated his argument that New York and other states with Democratic governors were a target of former President Donald Trump last summer, when the Justice Department announced its investigation into four states’ handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Cuomo said Thursday that the state’s reported number of coronavirus fatalities has always been accurate.
The state increased its COVID-19 congregate care death toll from roughly 8,000 to more than 13,000 in late January, including an additional 3,000 presumed COVID deaths previously unreported. Cuomo’s office released the full count hours after the attorney general released her report accusing the Executive Chamber of the 50% undercount.
“The number itself was always going to change,” Cuomo said. “It’s not that anybody was trying to (hide) a secret number because it wasn’t about the number — it was about the accuracy of the number.
“Fact: COVID came here before anybody knew it was here,” the governor added. “Fact: The federal government failed to deny the fact that it was here. Fact: The staff brought COVID into nursing homes unknowingly. Fact: There was spread which was asymptomatic spread, which the federal government said didn’t exist.”
The state Assembly Judiciary Committee continues to progress with an impeachment probe examining if the governor threatened his staff to unlawfully withhold or misrepresent COVID-19 congregate fatality data required by the Legislature and government entities, allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by at least nine women and questions about the structural integrity of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement named for his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The Assembly committee, as well as James, who is running a separate investigation into the aforementioned issues, are also investigating the governor’s use of state resources to publish and promote his book released in October.
The state’s total COVID-19 nursing home deaths have surpassed 15,500 people to date.