Progressive Democratic New York Assemblyman Ron Kim claimed to CNN Wednesday that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened his career if he did not help “cover up” allegations that Cuomo’s staff deliberately “concealed the full extent of nursing home-related deaths during the Covid pandemic.”
Kim says he was “bathing his children at home” when Cuomo called him on his cell phone and threatened “political retribution.”
“Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,” Kim told the network. Cuomo then allegedly told the assemblyman that “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”
Melissa DeRosa is the legislative aide that “told state lawmakers in a private virtual meeting that the state had delayed sharing with the legislature the full scope of the Covid-related death toll of New York’s nursing home residents because of concerns about a potential federal investigation by the Department of Justice,” per CNN.
Andrew Cuomo has, since DeRosa’s comments became public, become the target of intense scrutiny over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with national lawmakers and mainstream media outlets suddenly taking notice of claims that Cuomo’s orders, which placed recovering COVID-19 patients into nursing and long-term care facilities directly from hospitals, regardless of whether they were still contagious, may have cost thousands of lives.
Kim has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo’s nursing home requirement and believes that his own nursing home-bound uncle died of a coronavirus infection because of the policy. He demanded, last week, that the governor “apologize to family members of those who died in assisted living facilities,” a statement that may have triggered Cuomo’s call.
“No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,” Kim recounted. “At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t.”
“Kim’s wife told CNN that she had overheard parts of Kim’s phone call with Cuomo last week, and described the governor as ‘loud’ and ‘angry,'” CNN added. “She said she heard Cuomo say, ‘Who do you think you are?’ as well as the words, ‘my wrath,’ and that immediately after the phone call, her husband told her: ‘The governor threatened to destroy my life.'”
In a speech Monday, Cuomo refused to take responsibility for the situation, admitting that he should have been more forthright with the public, generally, during the height of the pandemic but refused to apologize for the apparent COVID-19 death undercount. Instead, he blamed a “toxic political environment” for the confusion over nursing home numbers.
He then said that “all the deaths in the nursing homes and in the hospitals were always fully publicly and accurately reported.”
“In his first press conference since reports surfaced that his office underreported or withheld critical information on nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said all relevant information was ‘fully, publicly and accurately reported,’” Fox News reported Monday. “When asked if he felt the need to apologize, the New York governor said his team’s failure to publicly address concerns created a ‘void’ that allowed the spread of ‘conspiracy theories.’”
Kim told CNN that he’s received several calls since Cuomo’s, all from anonymous numbers. The callers leave voice mails telling him that the governor is looking to speak with him again. “He said he has informed the governor’s office that any outreach should be made through his counsel,” according to CNN.
Cuomo’s office appeared to acknowledge the phone call to CNN but contested Kim’s retelling of the conversation.
“Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false,'” the governor’s aid, Rick Azzopardi, told CNN. “The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics.'”
Cuomo himself reportedly told a press call that he and Kim have a “long and hostile relationship.”
Kim told CNN that he “stood by” his allegations.
“There’s no undoing here. They have blood on their hands,” Kim said. “We’re talking about his record of performance in the last 10 months.”
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