Uncharacteristically following suit with dozens of state and federal legislators, largely Republican, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has called for a full investigation into the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic by New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.
“Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the secretary to the governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation,” she added.
Cuomo fell into serious hot water after the state’s attorney general uncovered that his state undercounted deaths with COVID-19 among nursing home residents by nearly 40%. Though state officials initially reported 8,740 deaths in nursing homes, another 4,000 died as a result of a March 2020 order that forced nursing homes to accept returning residents, even if they tested positive for the virus.
As the deadly policy resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths, a top aide to Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa, recently revealed the administration intentionally covered up the true number of nursing home death over fears the numbers would “be used against us.”
“(Trump) starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” she explained. “He starts going after [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy, starts going after [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, starts going after [Michigan Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer.” DeRosa said Trump also, “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
“And basically, we froze,” she told the lawmakers on the call.
Despite the clear scandal that cost thousands of lives, Cuomo maintains his administration did “a great job” handling the coronavirus pandemic and he promised to “take on the lies and the unscrupulous actors.”
“We provided the Department of Justice with truthful information in our response. It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate. That is a lie,” Cuomo said.
“Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals. New York state legislators requested information, yes they did. We said we would pause the state legislature’s request because we gave DOJ precedence, true,” he detailed. “We pause the state request and we told them that we paused the state request. They were told and they knew, and we gave DOJ precedence.”
The Albany Times-Union reported on Wednesday that the FBI and a U.S. attorney in Brooklyn launched an investigation into the Cuomo administration while the DOJ has apparently been probing what happened “for months,” a Cuomo adviser told news outlets this week.
Partisan hacks love harmless scandals with terrible optics. Sprinkle a little media exaggeration on top and a silly blunder like Senator Ted Cruz going to Cancún for a one-night getaway or can seem like a career-ending scandal. But scandals like those never stick, with one side seeing straight through the obvious hit piece.
So when a scandal warrants bipartisan support, you know it’s bad.