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COVID-19: Cuomo Denies Telling Democratic Assemblyman 'You Will Be Destroyed'

Assemblyman Ron Kim Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Yuhline
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news briefing in Albany on Monday, Feb. 15. At left, is State Health Director Dr. Howard Zucker. Photo Credit: flickr/New York Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vehemently denied threatening to “destroy” a Queens Assemblyman if he didn’t help contain the damage over the controversy he’s facing for underreporting the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim alleged that he got a phone call from Cuomo on Thursday, Feb. 11 following the report that one of the governor’s top aides, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, admitted to withholding death data from the federal government.

According to Kim, Cuomo questioned if he was an honorable man and asked him to draft a statement “to say that DeRosa said there was a federal investigation and they had to deal with that first.”

It is alleged that during that conversation, Cuomo told Kim “You have not seen my wrath. I have been biting my tongue for months.”

“I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished,” Kim recalled Cuomo saying. “You will be destroyed.”

In response, Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor for Cuomo, said that “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. We did ask for Mr. Kim to do the honorable thing and put out a truthful statement after he told the governor he was misquoted in a news article, which he said he tried to correct but the reporter refused. Kim said he would correct the story and then broke his word. No surprise.

"We will not allow an unscrupulous politician to deceive New Yorkers or distort the truth.  Mr. Kim's current statements do not even align with the comments he made at the meeting,” Azzopardi added. “He is without credibility as his own words demonstrate.

“Mr. Kim and the Governor's office have had a long, hostile relationship.”

Cuomo's administration again sought to place the blame on former President Donald Trump’s office for providing the guidance New York following regarding nursing homes.

“On the merits, Mr. Kim and the NY Post and Republicans argue that the state's March 25 order on nursing homes was bad policy,” Azzopardi added.

“What they fail to mention is the state was following federal policy and if the Post and republicans want to play a political blame game, they should blame Donald Trump and they should have blamed Donald Trump since last March 25 when they promulgated the guidance,” he added. “We will stick to the facts.”

Azzopardi also doubled down on the March 25 order, saying that the state was doing what it thought was best at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID was already in the nursing homes by the time March 25 arrived. That is a proven fact,” he said. “Hospital beds were critical. And that is a proven fact. People needed hospital beds with ventilators and critical care nursing staff to save their lives. We provided that. 

“Unlike other states and countries our hospital system was not overwhelmed and we went from the highest infect rate to the lowest and saved lives. That is the irrefutable truth.”

Following the allegations from Kim, State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt again called for the removal of Cuomo’s emergency powers and investigate his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.

“Gov. Cuomo today tripled down on the lies and deception regarding his administration’s coverup of nursing home deaths,” Ortt said. “Instead of apologizing and taking one iota of responsibility, he politically attacked the press, lawmakers, nursing home staff, and blamed just about everyone but the man in the mirror for his deadly decisions.

“His unhinged rant should make one thing absolutely clear - Gov. Cuomo will continue to abuse his power until we as a Legislature stand up to him,” he added. “We must remove his emergency powers, we must provide extensive oversight, and we must stand together to demand he and his administration be investigated and held accountable by state and federal authorities.”

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