Andrew Cuomo: The King of New York is suddenly without clothes

Deep fall of the Corona hero
Andrew Cuomo scandal: The King of New York is suddenly without clothes

Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York

© Johannes Eisele / AFP

As Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo presented himself as a prudent counter-proposal from US President Donald Trump during the corona crisis – and was celebrated for it. But there is not much left of this fame.

You could have guessed last summer that there was something wrong with this story. In all seriousness, Andrew Cuomo published a book entitled “An American Crisis – Lessons in (Political) Leadership from the Covid-19 Crisis”, in which he analyzed his corona policy as if in retrospect. Or even celebrated.

Mind you, it was by no means the time to take stock and learn lessons, after all, the crisis was still in full swing. But that played no role for Cuomo, and certainly not for his admirers, who called themselves “Cuomosexuals” and did not spare admiration for the first man in the state of NY: With impressive success, the 63-year-old had overburdened himself as a prudent alternative and staged erratic US President Donald Trump.

Andrew Cuomo: A man of virtue in need?

With the number, Cuomo made it from daily appearance on the main evening program of American television to international celebrity – and next to California’s Governor Gavin Newsom to what felt like the only politician in the United States who took the crisis seriously.

Cuomo promised to orient his politics strictly according to scientific necessities. His crisis management earned him a lot of praise, including from top US immunologist Anthony Fauci, and ensured that the situation in New York was somewhat under control after an explosion in the corona cases in spring 2020. In times of need, Cuomo suddenly became a man of virtue.

Now the fundamental enthusiasm of the Americans for their role models and leaders should always be met with a certain skepticism. After all, we’re talking about New York, where even a Rudy Giuliani once made it to the position of mayor, who after 9/11 also accumulated tackling fame similar to that of Cuomo almost two decades later. And of course we’re also talking about the country that has just voted out its reality TV star as president.

The boundaries between politics and entertainment are blurring in the USA. Still, the crash that hit Cuomo since last summer is likely to be quite unique. Hardly any New Yorker today has a “Cuomocrush”. The king of Big Apple suddenly stands there without clothes.

How could that happen?

The background to this is that the number of deaths in the homes has recently been revised upwards sharply, from 8500 to more than 15,000. Several media outlets – including the New York Times – report that state MPs suspect that Cuomo is covering up the proportions. As a consequence, they planned to want to restrict his powers to directly issue emergency measures. It was also revealed that the federal FBI and investigators in New York State were investigating government policies regarding nursing homes.

All of this goes back to an apparently momentous decision by the governor, who ordered at the end of March 2020 that more than 6000 older Covid patients should be released from inpatient treatment and transferred back to old people’s homes. Soon after, according to official figures, 8,500 people died in New York old people’s homes. Cuomo himself put the blame for this in a report on nurses who had brought the virus into the homes – he sometimes even dismissed other explanations as conspiracy stories from Trump’s camp.

Now that the much higher death toll has become known, the rhetorical question arises why the Cuomo administration embellished the numbers so blatantly when it was not aware of any responsibility. And so the scandal takes its course, the fall of the supposed hero runs deep.

“Skepticism, Cynicism and Conspiracy Theories”

The New York District Attorney is investigating. Cuomo denies guilt and shows no remorse. “The information gap that we have created has been filled with skepticism, cynicism and conspiracy theories,” he says. “And they add to the confusion.”

Meanwhile, his closest colleague Melissa de Rosa has admitted that deaths were withheld in order to prevent possible investigations – and that Donald Trump was not given the chance to see whether the many victims might drive attacks against New York in his daily corona briefings. So Cuomo’s team only counted the fatalities who died in the nursing homes – in contrast, those who were admitted to a clinic before their death were not counted in the statistics.

Many Democrats in New York, who have long been annoyed by Cuomo’s penchant for omnipotence, are now demanding explanations, if not consequences, from the governor – and while the governor publicly urges to keep emotions and ego out of the debate, he threatens critical party colleagues such as the MP Ron Kim blatantly says: “I will destroy your life.”

A contradiction: Trump’s alternative proposal is apparently using means that one would rather trust the former president. At most, an even greater contradiction is that the great hero of the corona crisis in 2020 will slowly mutate into the fallen hero in 2021. It would be his final lesson in (political) leadership from the Covid-19 crisis. At least it would be enough for a book sequel.

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