Governor Cuomo is in some political trouble, and his most prominent nemesis is showing little hesitancy in piling on.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio backed up Ron Kim, a New York State assemblyman who recently gave an account of the governor berating him.
In response, de Blasio said that such behavior was typical.
“It’s a sad thing to say, Mika, but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo,” de Blasio said. “A lot of people in New York state have received those phone calls. The bullying is nothing new. I believe Ron Kim, and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who’s telling the truth, should be treated that way.”
The eternal feud between the mayor and governor has hardly let up during the pandemic, with the two hardheaded, self-regarding politicians clashing over everything from vaccine distribution to school-reopening plans. (With his expansive power, the governor usually has the upper hand.) But even for a relationship marked by consistent antipathy, de Blasio’s comments constituted an unusually direct rebuke — and may be a sign that he senses weakness over the nursing-home issue.
Kim, an assemblyman from Queens, has long accused the governor of a cover-up over his long delay in furnishing data on nursing-home deaths to state officials. After months of delays, and in the face of an inquiry by State Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo’s health department recently added thousands of nursing-home deaths to the official tally. The move further fueled longstanding accusations that Cuomo had hid the true toll of COVID-19 in nursing homes to avoid blowback over his controversial decision to order nursing homes to readmit COVID patients from hospitals last March.
Kim says Cuomo called him multiple times to chew him out, telling the New York Times: “Cuomo goes off about how I hadn’t seen his wrath and anger, that he would destroy me and he would go out tomorrow and start telling how bad of a person I am and I would be finished and how he had bit his tongue about me for months.” Cuomo’s office disputed Kim’s version of the call. The governor called him out at a press conference on Wednesday and accused him of running a “racket” involving donations from nail-salon owners.
Cuomo’s team has told state officials that it hadn’t turned over the nursing-home data promptly because it feared the Trump administration would use it to conduct a political witch hunt against him and the state. But that explanation isn’t flying with everyone. It doesn’t help that many Democrats and Republicans alike have long chafed at Cuomo’s haughty style and unilateral decision-making during the pandemic. A group of Democrats now wants to strip Cuomo of the powers granted to him at the beginning of the pandemic last year.
Perhaps more alarmingly for Cuomo, federal prosecutors are looking into his handling of the nursing-home deaths — Trump’s absence aside.