It was just a while ago that Andrew Cuomo, the three-term governor of New York, was a COVID-19-conquering hero.
He was America’s governor. He was the anti-Trump. His press-conference performances won him an Emmy award. The progressive media loved him.
He thought rather highly of himself too. With the pandemic still raging in the fall, Mr. Cuomo put out a self-aggrandizing, score-settling book, American Crisis, on his handling of it.
The tome typified his triumphalism. But Mr. Cuomo is hardly triumphant now. His glory days are suddenly gone. Up in smoke. He’s America’s governor, as one critic put it, just as Rudy Giuliani was America’s mayor.
In the space of a month he’s been rocked by a pair of scandals, one involving covering up the true death toll of coronavirus in nursing homes, the other alleging sexual harassment of three women.
The knives are out. Calls for his resignation are mounting. His style of stewardship, that of an overbearing pater familias, won Mr. Cuomo few friends in Albany, the state capital. He appears to have become a victim of his hubris. Hence, a flame-out worthy of Icarus.
The Democratic Party is embarrassed, journalists who kissed his wingtips the same, and Republicans of course are lapping it up. They had it thrown in their faces for months how New York was leading the way in fighting COVID-19 in comparison to Republican-run states such as Florida. But at last look, New York has the second-highest per-capita death rate from the coronavirus, while the Sunshine State is way down at 26th.
Mr. Cuomo is the subject of simultaneous investigations: a federal one into the nursing-home deaths and an independent inquiry into the sexual-harassment allegations. If he doesn’t resign, he could face the type of reckoning he so enjoyed watching Donald Trump come up against: impeachment proceedings.
He has accepted some responsibility for the nursing-home fiasco and he apologized Wednesday to his accusers on the harassment charges, while denying he touched anyone inappropriately.
His sleazy behaviour is particularly galling given that it came during the #MeToo era when many celebrities were disgraced for their behaviour. Colleagues wonder what he could have been thinking. He was well aware of the sensitivities, having returned political donations in 2017 from Harvey Weinstein, who was then under investigation for sexual assault.
Democrats had hoped they had put the punitive sexual-harassment issue behind them. It had taken down Minnesota senator Al Franken and long-time Michigan congressman John Conyers. During the primaries, Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade and other women complained of unwelcome touching. Now the issue, which also prompted the impeachment of president Bill Clinton, is front and centre as Democrats face questions on the type of disciplinary action Mr. Cuomo should receive.
Given his intimidating, control-freak style, many are not surprised that Mr. Cuomo, who served as an enforcer under his father, Mario Cuomo, when he was governor, overstepped the bounds. In 2013, the younger Mr. Cuomo established a commission to investigate corruption in state politics. Its functioning was hindered by his office as the investigation was getting too close to home. It was subsequently shut down.
Accusations of a cover-up on the nursing-home controversy will be hard to dodge. The Cuomo administration sent hospitalized nursing-home residents with the virus back to the homes. Although more than 15,000 died at the homes, to start 2021 the state was only reporting about 8,500 fatalities.
To avoid blame, the suspicion is that Mr. Cuomo kept the numbers hidden. His top aide, Melissa DeRosa, has admitted withholding the data from lawmakers, saying the government was worried that putting the news out would have prompted the Trump administration to begin a federal investigation.
Attempting to downplay the whole thing, Mr. Cuomo heartlessly said at one point that it didn’t matter whether people passed away in a nursing home or in a hospital. “But who cares?” he said. “… Died in a hospital. Died in a nursing home. They died.”
He bullied and threatened critics in his party who had the integrity to question what was going on. Assemblyman Ron Kim, for one, said he received a call from an enraged Mr. Cuomo threatening to “destroy” him if he didn’t shut up.
It’s the type of approach, imperious and ego-drenched, that appears – pride goeth before the fall – to be destroying Mr. Cuomo himself.
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