The Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is in maximum spin mode. His defensive posturing and damage-control initiatives aim to stall further investigation into the tragic loss of more 6,000 elderly lives in his state’s nursing homes. That followed his disastrous March 25 directive that compelled these facilities to take in COVID-positive patients. The loss of life that resulted was staggering – and avoidable.
In a blaze of misinformation, mixed messages, policy reversals, bureaucratic and scientific mendacity, and pandemic hysteria fanned by the media bellows, one thing everyone knew with certainty was that the elderly and immuno-compromised were at serious risk from COVID-19. And yet, somehow, Cuomo missed that critical bulletin.
He effectively acknowledged the gravity of the mistake when he reversed the fateful policy on May 10 – after thousands of New York’s elders had already died. But rather than take ownership of his calamitous decision, lest it unfavorably impact his inevitable campaign to be elected POTUS, Cuomo has undertaken the political equivalent of a “serpentine” run, as he zigzags away from direct criticisms.
To the cries for accountability, Cuomo responded, “I think you’d have to be blind to realize it’s not political.” This is master-level misdirection of a career-ending policy mistake — and a pivot Cuomo has used from the start: “Don’t look here – look over there! J’accuse!”
Every time an attempt was made to hold his feet to the fire, Cuomo finessed. Earlier in the year, he insisted he was following federal directives, although obeying guidelines from President Trump might be a first for him. Cuomo asserts almost monarchial rule over his state from Albany, but deferred to his archenemy on this single decision? Highly unlikely.
More recently, when calls for a next-level investigation rang out, Cuomo turned insinuation up to 11:
“Just look at where it comes from and look at the sources and look at their political affiliations and look at who wrote the letter in Congress and look at what publications raise it and what media outward networks raise it.”
The governor seemed to imply nefarious skullduggery emanated from Fox’ talking heads — and he was right: There was discussion at Murdoch’s news channel about the unprecedented nursing home tragedy in New York and the governor’s responsibility. But it occurred in a virtual vacuum, because no other cable news outlets or mainstream media entities would report the obvious truth: But for Cuomo’s March 25 edict, thousands of elderly New Yorkers would still be alive today.
One slated to testify at hearings on the deaths of 6,200 New Yorkers or more in nursing homes was Janice Dean, senior meteorologist on Fox News. Claiming to be non-political, she wanted to speak about the deaths of her beloved in-laws but was uninvited soon after being included on the witness list, a decision New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara (R-NY) says was made because Democrats were “not comfortable” with her testifying. Dean insists she just wanted to honor the memory of her “New York tough” in-laws but now thinks that Cuomo doesn’t want a real investigation, rendering the hearings a “complete sham.”
Cuomo waves away criticism of his complicity, sees assertions that he is in any way responsible as simply “dirty politics,” and dismisses as “political conspiracy” the notion that the “deaths in nursing homes were preventable.” He claims that “the deaths were caused by infected staff members who spread the virus.”
The desperation is palpable — worse even than his sad attempts to coax elite exiles back to New York City from the Hamptons by promising to cook for them. If Cuomo were a Republican, he would already have suffered a scorched-earth comeuppance requiring him to resign in disgrace. And if he were Trump? Death by fire ants would be too good for him.
But since he is Andrew Cuomo — part of the Big Brother/Little Brother Show! on a certain network and serial critic of the Great Orange Menace — he has earned his progressive bona fides, and his cable news comrades are part of the package deal. Not one will criticize what is among the most deadly decisions ever made by an elected American official. Governor Death will get by, as the Beatles once sang, with a little help from his friends.
As he dodges in and out of his funhouse mirror of justifications, twisting truth like carnival taffy, Cuomo is likely to curtail any more efforts to investigate his fateful nursing home decision.
Reckonings are funny things: They are often faced by those who don’t deserve them and avoided by those who do. Something many grieving New York families know all too well.
Read more from Pennel Bird.