Did Cuomo call up another democratic lawmaker and threaten to ‘destroy him?’
"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." Assemblyman Ron Kim disclosing what Governor Cuomo said to him over the phone.
"Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night," said senior advisor Rich Azzopardi.
More than 15,000 New Yorkers in care homes have died since the start of the pandemic. But - until late last month - the state's health department had logged just over 8,500 fatalities.
The governor confirmed the discrepancy in a press conference this past Monday. The initial undercount was partly the result of a controversial policy to exclude residents that died outside of the facilities, including in hospital, from the official numbers, according to a report.
Since the report came out over two weeks ago, the state has added thousands more deaths to its official tally, more accurately reflecting the true death toll of nursing home residents. Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, has repeatedly defended his handling of nursing homes, often arguing that other states were doing far worse, but his administration has been engulfed by the scandal in recent days.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, yesterday, took the unusual step of criticizing Assemblyman Ron Kim by name in a conference call with reporters. When the call had ended, it became clear why: Kim alleged in interview with The New York Times and CNN that Cuomo threatened to "destroy" him in a phone call last week.
Cuomo's office in a statement called Kim a liar.
The phone call from Cuomo came amid The New York Post first reporting a top aide to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, told lawmakers in a meeting that week the administration had withheld nursing home data from the public over concerns of a federal inquiry into the matter.
The spiraling story surrounding nursing home deaths in New York are sparking calls for the governor's authority to respond to the pandemic to be rescinded by lawmakers. And it has thrust Cuomo, considered a national leader on the issue, into the national spotlight for much different reasons than earlier last year.
Kim, a Queens Democrat, has been a vocal critic of the governor's nursing home policies. He was included in the meeting with DeRosa. After The Post's story broke, Cuomo sought to contain the damage by calling Kim.
Kim told CNN Cuomo said, "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."
Cuomo in the call with reporters criticized Kim, accusing him of self-dealing over a bill several years ago surrounding nail salon regulations. "He attacked me and said that I obstructed justice in a letter, today," Cuomo said. "He said today that the immunity bill was because of my political contributors. Those are very harsh accusations. In this business, the void and disinformation, you can't not correct disinformation."
Kim in a statement in response knocked Cuomo for releasing a book last year about his handling of the pandemic. "While he claims he was taking time to answer the Justice Department, we saw him gallivant around on a book tour and victory lap across prime time cable shows. Again, all while his top aide deliberately hid the information in fear of political and legal consequences," Kim said.
"The governor can smear me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his fatally incompetent management. But these facts are not going away because they are the facts — unacceptable facts that hold him accountable."
Cuomo in the conference call with reporters said he had spoken to Kim last week over statements he made to the Post criticizing him.
"Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night," said senior advisor Rich Azzopardi. "I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred. At no time did anyone threaten to 'destroy' anyone with their 'wrath' nor engage in a 'coverup.' That's beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration.
All this comes amid a push within the Legislature for more oversight of the governor's handling of the pandemic. The Legislature also seeks to limit the powers lawmakers granted Cuomo, last year, to respond to the ongoing crisis.