Assemblyman Ron Kim reported that he received a threatening phone call from Governor Cuomo last Thursday after Kim publicly criticized his administration for its handling of the COVID-19 nursing-home crisis.
Kim told the New York Times that Cuomo called him in the late evening and opened by asking, “Are you an honorable man?” He then went on to berate Kim for ten minutes.
“He 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,” Kim told the paper.
Cuomo also wanted Kim to issue a statement explaining his comments.
This all stems from a recent call between Melissa DeRosa, a top Cuomo aide, and other Democratic lawmakers. On the call, DeRosa acknowledged that the administration had held back data on coronavirus-related deaths in state nursing homes amid fears of a Department of Justice investigation spearheaded by then-President Trump.
Kim, a Democrat from Queens, was on that call and wasn’t satisfied with what he heard.
Kim told the New York Post that DeRosa’s comments sounded like “they admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice.”
Cuomo’s call came the same day the article was published, and Kim received more calls through the weekend that he did not return, according to CNN.
The situation between the two men seemed to escalate Wednesday afternoon, when Cuomo spoke at length about his administration’s “long and hostile relationship” with Kim during a news conference, citing a dispute between the two regarding a 2015 law instituting nail-salon reform.
Asked for comment, senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said to CNN, “Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false.”
He added, “The governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics.’”
In his own statement, Kim said: “The governor can smear me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his fatally incompetent management. But these facts are not going away because they are the facts — unacceptable facts that hold him accountable.”
Another sign that the scandal will linger through the second pandemic year is that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York have launched an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of long-term care facilities in the early days of the pandemic.