The decade's most triggering comedy
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, recently viewed as a deity and de facto King of New York by scores on the Left, now faces the looming threat of impeachment and growing calls for resignation as disturbing details of his sexual harassment against female employees continue to come to light.
Last spring, the legacy media treated Governor Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings like utterances from the Oracle of Delphi. He regularly bantered and engaged in comedy routines with his younger brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo. The recently divorced “Love Guv,” as Chris called him, relished the adulation of hardcore fans who dubbed themselves “Cuomosexuals.” The Governor wrote a book, won an International Emmy, and cemented himself as the most beloved elected Democrat in the nation.
Fast forward 12 months. Cuomo finds himself at the vortex of multiple scandals, ranging from the lurid to the deadly. President Joe Biden, who once hailed Cuomo as “the gold standard” of governors and saluted “the example you’ve set for all Americans during this pandemic,” has called on Cuomo to resign. Opposition within New York’s congressional delegation spans the ideological spectrum, and should he refuse to resign, at least 83 of the state’s 150 Assembly members say they favor initiating impeachment proceedings.
How did Andrew Cuomo fall so far, so fast? A look at his record — including his history of governing by fear and intimidation — shows that any clear-eyed pundit should have seen this train wreck coming long ago.
Bullying His Way to the Top
Andrew Mark Cuomo was born December 6, 1957, the son of future three-term New York Governor Mario Cuomo. The younger Cuomo entered public life in the 1980s as “bad cop” to his father’s “good cop.” Andrew Cuomo’s strong-arming tactics earned him the nickname “the enforcer.” He had a reputation for “bullying, yelling, putting people down,” remembers Nelson Adler, a senior aide on the 1982 campaign.
Cuomo burnished his political credentials after President Bill Clinton appointed him assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1993. When an FBI investigation ousted Secretary Henry Cisneros, Cuomo threw some sharp elbows to assure Clinton tapped him to lead HUD from 1997 until the end of his second term. HUD launched an investigation against the Clintons’ reported first choice, Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, shortly after the 1996 election. During the probe, Clinton named Cuomo as HUD secretary. Rice was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
At HUD, Cuomo busied himself with public relations. “Sure, I’m doing PR. The PR is the most important thing I do,” he told The Washington Post. But questions arose about whose image he was enhancing. “In 2000, Cuomo’s HUD administration issued 302 press releases in 331 working days. Most of these releases contained headlines touting Cuomo, not the president,” according to Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute. As he geared up for a political career in the Empire State, he visited New York six times more than any other state.
When his decision to fire career HUD officials and hire a well-paid cadre of “public outreach” activists known as “Community Builders” came under fire, HUD employees said Cuomo bullied them into silence. The Inspector General’s report said that HUD leadership “told employees not to talk to us,” gave them pre-approved answers, and threatened them so badly they “feared reprisals.” The Wall Street Journal reported that “[S]enior officials under Mr. Cuomo … took the unusual step of asking the Inspector General’s office for the names of HUD employees who spoke with auditors.” Robert Paquin said he was demoted after he talked to investigators.
His bullying extended to policy, where he pressured lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend home loans to the poor while reducing the required deposit. “Clearly, he decided to make a name for himself by trying to push the envelope,” said Arnold Kling, formerly of Freddie Mac. Many believe this paved the way for the subprime mortgage crisis and contributed to the 2008 Great Recession.
Cuomo retained high political ambitions, but he lost the 2002 Democratic primary for governor to Carl McCall. But he rebounded, becoming the state’s Attorney General in 2006. Four years later, he defeated Republican Carl Paladino to become New York’s 56th governor, and the second surnamed Cuomo.
He governed as a traditional liberal. He raised taxes and increased spending. He celebrated signing the Reproductive Health Act, which allows taxpayer-funded abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy and removed protections for babies born alive during botched abortions. He enacted restrictive gun control measures via the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (NY SAFE) Act of 2013 and called NRA members “bad guys.” In 2014, he tried to push conservatives out of the state of New York. Those he deemed “extreme conservatives, who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay [marriage] … have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
When New York became the epicenter of COVID-19, he seized the spotlight with daily televised updates. The media, desperate to create an alternative to President Donald Trump’s contentious daily briefings, anointed Cuomo as the anti-Trump. U.S. News and World Report dubbed him “America’s Governor.” Former Republican-strategist-turned-MSNBC-host Nicolle Wallace told her audience that Cuomo is “everything Trump isn’t: honest, direct, brave.” Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein said Cuomo provided “real leadership of the kind the president of the United States should have provided.” MSNBC’s Joy Reid tweeted that Cuomo’s “press conferences are just putting Donald Trump to shame.” The Washington Post’s house “conservative,” Jennifer Rubin, summed up the view of the intelligentsia: “Watching Andrew Cuomo is inspiring, uplifting, fascinating. He weaves details and humor and math and common sense all together. He is magnificent. Let’s just listen to him.”
By April, 56% of Democrats said they wanted Cuomo to replace Biden as the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidate. Fashion designers sold cashmere “Cuomo for President” sweatshirts for $285 apiece.
Some of the praise bordered on the erotic. Vogue magazine featured two love letters to Cuomo: Chelsea Handler’s “Dear Andrew Cuomo, I want to be your First Lady” and Molly Jong-Fast’s “Why We Are Crushing on Andrew Cuomo Right Now.” The left-wing feminist website Jezebel declared, “Help, I Think I’m In Love With Andrew Cuomo???”
Other rewards proved more tangible: Cuomo has received $5.12 million in royalties from his book, Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic. He won an International Emmy last November “in recognition of his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world.” The pandemic “was a tremendous personal benefit,” he said.
But problems were brewing that set the stage for his fall.
Bullying His Way to the Bottom
Behind the scenes, Andrew Cuomo continued his old ways. “The problem with Cuomo is no one has ever liked him,” former Democratic lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch told the New York Times. “He’s not a nice person and he doesn’t have any real friends.” The Times described his three terms in office as “a decade-long reign of ruthlessness and governance by brute force.” He solicited more than $2 million in campaign donations from political appointees, their families, or businesses, and demanded absolute loyalty.
But he could also prove loyal to donors. “[D]uring Cuomo’s 2018 re-election bid, his campaign asked the Greater New York Hospital Association for a donation to the state Democratic Party,” reported the Buffalo News. The hospital lobby provided $1 million, twice the amount of their largest donation at that time, and Cuomo promptly gave them one of their key aims: He raised the amount the state pays hospitals that treat Medicaid patients.
Cuomo and the GNYHA developed a cozy relationship. When New York City became the epicenter of the novel coronavirus global pandemic, GNYHA came to Cuomo for relief. They wanted permission to transfer COVID-positive patients to other facilities, including nursing homes, and they wanted to limit their liability for the treatment they accorded patients. On March 25, 2020, Cuomo complied. To free up hospital beds, he ordered, “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
Placing COVID-positive patients in a confined space with the elderly, who are most vulnerable to the virus, caused deaths to spike. “In the name of easing a crisis for the association’s members, the Cuomo administration contributed to a disaster for vulnerable nursing-home residents, who died by the thousands,” wrote Bill Hammond of the Empire Center.
Cuomo had two advantages: First, the media reported little negative news about the “Love Guv.” Only 0.5% of evening broadcast news stories about Cuomo mentioned nursing home deaths, according to a study from the Media Research Center. Second, his administration cooked the books. “Basically, we froze” the count when the death toll began rising, Cuomo’s secretary Melissa DeRosa confessed to state legislators. “We weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the [Trump administration] Department of Justice … was going to be used against us, [and] we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”
The state reported 6,600 nursing home deaths from the coronavirus last August. The Associated Press estimated the real number at 11,000; The New York Times estimates the nursing home death toll now stands at 15,000. The dam burst in February, when Democratic state assembly member Ronald Kim said Cuomo called “to threaten my career if I did not cover up for” him on the nursing home lie. Instead, Kim went public.
At the same time, a host of women came forward to say Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed them. A total of 11 women would accuse the governor of everything from asking leading questions about having sex with an older man, to groping multiple women’s buttocks over their clothes, to fondling a woman’s breast under her clothes. On August 3, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a 165-page report, not including three appendices, citing 70,000 pieces of evidence. Yet Cuomo remained defiant. “I do it with everyone,” Cuomo said in his defense — a fact he and his detractors can agree on.
Today, Cuomo’s approval ratings crossed the partisan divide again: New Yorkers stand united against him. A Marist poll taken after the bombshell AG report found that 59% of New York voters think Governor Cuomo should resign, including 52% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans. Just under half (48%) of all respondents said he should be impeached. A mere 18% of Democrats think Cuomo deserves to be reelected to a coveted (and historic) fourth term in 2022.
Andrew Cuomo has spent a lifetime choosing bullying over persuasion, hostility over comity, and self-preservation over accountability. He’s kicked the ground out from under himself and finds himself in political freefall. If Cuomo is held accountable for any of the scandals in which he has mired himself, his biography will prove the dictum that “a man reaps what he sows.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.