Feb. 17, 2021 By Christian Murray
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has come under heavy fire for his delay in reporting the number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19, railed against one of his chief critics—Queens Assembly Member Ron Kim—during a press conference today.
The attack followed a letter that Kim co-wrote Tuesday—along with eight other Democrats– accusing Cuomo of “intentional obstruction of justice” for withholding the nursing home data from state and federal officials.
Kim has also called for Cuomo to be formally stripped of his emergency powers due to the alleged cover up.
Cuomo told reporters today that Kim’s accusations were politically motivated and that the pair have had a “hostile relationship” that goes back to 2015 when legislation was passed regulating nail salons.
The governor accused Kim of supporting the 2015 legislation but then changing his mind when business owners in his district were upset.
“He actually used his lobbying firm to lobby on behalf of the business owners,” Cuomo alleged, adding that he has since tapped into these same business owners for campaign money. “I believe it is unethical, if not illegal.”
Several Queens legislators criticized Cuomo for the attacks and trying to divert attention with his claims.
“This behavior is unhinged,” tweeted State Sen. Mike Gianaris. “Seems like someone has a problem with legislators performing their oversight duties.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Jessica Ramos tweeted: “Someone seems to be nervous about legislators doing their job.”
The recent feud with Kim began after the New York Post reported that a top aide to Cuomo admitted that his administration had withheld nursing home death data out of fear that it would be used against them by federal prosecutors.
Kim was quoted in the NYPost story saying that it appeared as if the governor was “trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence.”
The Cuomo administration had refused requests from lawmakers and the media for months to provide the number of nursing home residents who died in hospitals— not just in nursing home facilities.
The number was finally released following a report by Attorney General Letitia James, who estimated the death toll was undercounted by as much as 50 percent.
The administration revised the number of nursing home deaths from 8,500 to more than 15,000 in response.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was not obstructing justice by not providing the data in a timely manner.
Kim told the New York Post that Cuomo called him Thursday night after the NYPost story ran and threatened his career and asked him to amend his statement.
“I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished,” Kim recalled Cuomo saying. Cuomo denied making such a statement.
Kim fired back at Cuomo today following the press conference.
The assemblyman issued a statement that did not address Cuomo’s claims about the nail salon but instead about the governor’s actions concerning nursing homes– as well as the lobbyists who support the administration.
“On March 25, the governor issued an executive order that sent COVID-19 positive patients into unprepared nursing homes. At the same time he surreptitiously slipped legislative immunity into our state budget bill for hospital executives and nursing homes at the request of powerful lobbyist like the Greater New York Hospital Associate—a group that donated $1.25 million towards his campaign. All the while his administration lied about the data.”