Just a few months ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was the poster boy of the Democrat Covid response. He was portrayed as the antithesis of Donald Trump; honest, frank, and always following the science. He was lauded for his Covid-19 press briefings that purportedly assured the people of New York and set an example for how leaders should behave in response to the crisis. In a surprise move, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (IATAS) decided to award Gov. Cuomo an Emmy award, stating: “The Governor’s 111 daily briefings worked so well because he effectively created television shows, with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure”. His performance earned himself a book deal from Random House, publishing American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19, in which he discusses how he became “the standard-bearer of the organized response the country desperately needed”.
In hindsight, the IATAS, Random House, and everyone else who lauded Cuomo with unfettered praise will cringe in light of the revelations of recent weeks. Not only did Cuomo’s administration send thousands of Covid-positive patients into nursing homes, putting thousands of vulnerable lives at risk, but Cuomo sought to cover-up the impact of his decision, hiding the true number of people who died in nursing homes. An investigation initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James found that nursing home deaths were underreported by more than 50%. Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa admitted that the true figures were hidden to protect the administration from federal prosecutors investigating the scandal, and to protect Cuomo’s political reputation. The idea that Cuomo is honest, frank, and committed to following science is now absurd.
Now that Trump is out of office, the Democrats no longer need a figurehead to operate as the anti-Trump, and Cuomo has become surplus to requirements. There is no longer any need to run cover for a Governor who clearly mismanaged the Covid response in his state. With the tide of public opinion turning against Gov. Cuomo, two former employees of his have found the courage to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against him. Charlotte Bennett, a former health policy advisor to Cuomo, alleges he questioned her on her sex life, including asking if she liked to have sex with older men. Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development to Cuomo, alleges that he made similar inappropriate comments and that he kissed her without consent. An independent investigation has been opened to investigate their claims. Cuomo denies the allegations.
A petition has been set up to recall Governor Cuomo, but despite the fact that 40% of New Yorkers would support recalling Cuomo, there is no provision in New York state law that would facilitate a recall. Republicans in the New York state legislature have introduced a resolution to impeach Gov. Cuomo. Most commentators have expressed doubt over the potential success of impeachment. The Democrats have an absolute majority in both houses in New York state, and it is customary for the legislature not to pass bills introduced by the minority party. However, if public ire against Cuomo continues to increase, Democrat representatives may feel compelled to act on the wishes of their constituents.
Gov. Cuomo will be conscious of the open federal investigation into his administration. If investigators build a case against him, it would be in Cuomo’s interest to resign before the worst comes to light. With pressure mounting from his constituents, the media, and his own party, resigning may be the only way to save what is left of his reputation before it is destroyed completely.