NEW YORK — One year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s performance at COVID-19’s onset made him the darling of the American Left. Some considered him a potential white knight who could rescue Democrats, if the other presidential candidates stumbled.
Today, Cuomo is a failed jockey atop a crippled donkey. His skull pounds from ethics headaches tied to COVID deaths in nursing homes, a cover-up of related fatality data, and matching migraines stemming from sexual-harassment allegations. Amid calls for his resignation or impeachment, Cuomo recently moaned, “I am not part of the political club.”
This whine was shocking, coming from a governor, former state attorney general, federal Cabinet alumnus, “son and chief political adviser” of a governor, brother of a network anchor, and ex-husband of a Kennedy. Only Earth’s core is a bigger insider.
The Cuomos’ rise and unfolding fall showcases an immigrant family that hiked from the plains of poverty to the commanding heights of America’s political and journalistic peaks. Today’s descent offers a hint at how low the Cuomos will roll.
Once upon a time, Mario Cuomo attended St. John’s University Law School, where he met Matilda. These children of Italian immigrants married in 1954. As his law practice prospered, the newlyweds had five kids: Margaret (a radiologist), Andrew, Maria (a documentarian who married fashion designer Kenneth Cole), Madeline (a matrimonial attorney), and Christopher.
The striving, American-Dreaming grocer’s son ran fruitlessly for lieutenant governor. But Mario scored, when Governor Hugh Carey appointed him secretary of state in 1975.
Two years later, Mario’s NYC-mayoral bid against former congressman Ed Koch was marred by posters that urged: “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.” Koch prevailed and blamed the Cuomos for this anti-gay smear, which they dispute.
Elected governor in 1982, Mario’s soaring oratory at the 1984 Democrat National Convention challenged President Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” as “more a Tale of Two Cities.” His eloquence and charisma made Mario a presidential favorite in 1988 and 1992. But his paralytic indecision about running earned him the nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson.” After three terms, Mario lost to Republican George Elmer Pataki in 1994.
Concurrently, the equally ambitious Andrew started his ascent. In 1990, he married Robert F. Kennedy’s seventh child, Kerry, mother of his three children. Andrew became President Bill Clinton’s assistant housing secretary in 1993 and housing secretary from 1997 to 2001.
“Cuomolot” ended in 2005, when Andrew divorced Kerry. He soon became involved with Food Network TV star Sandra Lee. Andrew was elected New York’s state attorney general in 2006.
Thirteen years Andrew’s junior, Chris’s journalism career spanned Fox News and ABC’s 20/20 and, from 2006 to ’09, Good Morning America. He moved to CNN in 2013 and scored his own show in 2018, Cuomo Prime Time. Since 2001, Chris has been married to the former Cristina Greeven — founder of Purist magazine and former editor of Gotham and Beach.
Andrew was elected governor in 2010. Although they never married, the Emmy-winning Sandra Lee became New York’s de facto first lady.
Mario died of heart failure at age 82 on January 1, 2015, Andrew’s second inauguration day. Notwithstanding the faint aroma of Pyongyang’s self-worshipping Kim family, Andrew honored his father by replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge (whose name echoed New York’s American Indian roots and early Dutch masters) with the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
Andrew already was no stranger to scandal:
•He appointed the Moreland Commission ethics panel in 2013. Twelve months later, as their inquiries inched too close to his office, Andrew disbanded it.
•Graft infected Buffalo Billion, a green-energy scheme that peddled $750 million in taxpayer subsidies to build solar panels in Buffalo — arguably America’s snowiest city.
•Andrew’s former campaign manager Joseph Percoco was convicted of bribery and wire fraud in 2018 and sentenced to six years in prison. His shakedown fleeced some $300,000 in cash from two companies that did business with New York State.
If this resembles a scene from a Martin Scorsese picture, so do the stereotypes Percoco himself deployed.
“Joe threw in this term ziti, which we used throughout the entire bribery scheme,” lobbyist Todd Howe testified in Percoco’s Manhattan trial. “Joe indicated it was a reference to The Sopranos.” In the popular HBO TV series, mobster Tony Soprano loans his friend Davey Scatino $5,000 or “five boxes of ziti” to bet in a high-rollers poker game.
“The government didn’t choose ‘ziti,’” said prosecutor Matthew Podoksly. “Mr. Percoco chose ‘ziti.’”
This was not the first nexus between the Cuomos and La Cosa Nostra.
In August 2019, a heckler called Chris “Fredo,” Michael Corleone’s hapless brother in The Godfather saga. Caught on camera, Chris’s profanity-soaked explosion ignited controversy. So did Chris’ claim that “Fredo” is “like the N word for us.” He thuggishly threatened his critic that he would “throw you down these stairs like a f***ing punk.”
When Mario weighed a presidential run in 1992, his potential rival Bill Clinton said, “Boy, he is so aggressive,” called him “a mean son of a b*tch,” and observed that he “acts like” someone with Mob ties.
Such comments enraged Mario for years. While he saw himself lancing unfair ethnic generalities, others deemed him “a Mafia denier.” Indeed, Mario once said that Mafia was “a word invented by people” and “a lot of baloney.” In his eyes, evidently, crime never was organized, and lawless Italian families never organized it.
Neither such suspicions, nor even ziti, slowed the man whom Politico called “a practitioner of the art of being feared.” As Andrew’s former top aide Steve Cohen once said, “We operate on two speeds here: Get along, and kill.” Andrew hard-charged into a third term in January 2019.
After 14 years, Andrew and Sandra Lee parted ways that September. Her timing was impeccable.
In early 2020, COVID-19 struck New York like a lead pipe in a dark alley. Andrew enjoyed instant accolades from America’s Left-wing media. His televised press conferences became Democrat counter-programming to President Donald J. Trump’s daily briefings, which — at least initially — boosted his job-approval numbers.
While the China virus raged, Andrew wrote American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic — 320 pages that self-lauded his plague response. He also received an Emmy for his televised updates.
Then, suddenly, relentless scandals spun New Yorkers’ heads:
Andrew’s nursing-home catastrophe exploded when Democrat state Attorney General Letitia James kicked over a rock and exposed the teeming pestilence beneath it. She revealed on January 28 that Team Cuomo had concealed unflatteringly high numbers of COVID-19 deaths in senior centers. The 8,711 fatalities that Cuomo had reported through January 19 actually were 12,743 — 46.3 percent higher.
COVID-contagious nursing-home residents could have recovered on the Trump-supplied, 1,000-bed USNS Comfort hospital ship or in the Javits Convention Center’s 2,910-bed pop-up hospital.
Instead, on March 25, 2020, Cuomo forced eldercare facilities to admit COVID-19-positive seniors. He prohibited them from mandating COVID tests for medically stable entrants. Also, until April 30, COVID-positive employees could work at these establishments.
In a February 10, 2021 call with Democrat state legislators, Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, confirmed that the books really were cooked, so they would not “be used against us” by the Justice Department. DeRosa’s confession triggered talk of federal indictments for false statements, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.
In spring 2020’s so-called “Andrew and Chris Show,” the Cuomo brothers joked on CNN about COVID-19. Chris wielded giant, prop cotton swabs to lampoon testing Andrew’s fulsome nostrils. The survivors of Andrew’s nursing-home dead are not laughing.
Andrew’s kid brother announced March 1 that he would stop covering his brother. Chris’s glaring conflict of interest and kid-glove treatment had grown inexcusable.
As his popularity peaked, Andrew’s televised press conferences and macho demeanor fueled lust among celebrities. “Getting ready for my boyfriend to come on TV,” actress Chelsea Handler gushed. “I’m pretty hot for Andrew Cuomo, not going to lie about that.”
“It’s OK,” Late Show TV host Stephen Colbert quipped, “These feelings are perfectly natural. Many Americans experience moments of being at least Andrew-curious, if not fullyCuomosexual.”
These jokes trigger few chuckles these days.
Despite the nursing-home disaster’s far-higher body count, Andrew is suffering far worse politically, thanks to nine women (and counting) who accuse him of sexual harassment and even sexual assault. In short, these women say, Andrew occasionally lured them into his office or residence, ostensibly regarding administrative matters. Lewd comments about their love lives, alternate uses of cigars, and even an invitation to strip poker sometimes followed. Others say that they endured unwelcome stares, unwanted kisses, and even unauthorized hands groping beneath their garments.
Some women complain that Team Cuomo tried to discredit them. Alleged victim Charlotte Bennett’s attorneys on March 23 charged that Andrew’s in-house lawyers hindered investigators probing this tawdriness.
As officials increasingly abandon Andrew, state vaccine chief Larry Schwartz enraged millions when he contacted county officials to gauge their gubernatorial loyalty. Implied message: Stick with Andrew, or no COVID vaccines for you.
In a newly exposed outrage, group homes for the mentally disabled also must accept COVID-positive individuals. Unlike the now-rescinded senior-center edict, this diktat remains active! No surprise, COVID needlessly killed 552 such individuals.
March 26 brought word that Andrew, early on, ordered state employees to prioritize then-rare COVID tests for his family — including Chris and Matilda. (The Mentoring USA founder is 89.) In fact, Chris’ examination was administered via house call.
Regardless, Chris contracted COVID-19 on March 31, 2020. He broadcast for three weeks from the quarantined basement of his home in posh Southampton. Nearby, he verbally abused a neighbor who caught him outdoors, and complained that he violated multiple COVID-care protocols.
“Who the hell are you?” Chris reportedly screamed. “I’ll find out who you are!”
Meanwhile, in the latest shock, Cuomo’s nursing-home whitewash coincided with his negotiations for a $4 million book advance on American Crisis. Megabucks for a megalomaniac. The eldercare death numbers would have made Andrew’s jackpot even more pungent. So, why not bury those pesky figures in a shallow grave, at least until Crown Publishing’s check cleared?
So, why is Andrew now in massive trouble?
•Trump is out. Democrats have no need to circle the wagons around Andrew and preserve him as a counterexample to the highly conspicuous former president.
•Andrew is a vindictive bully. Those he kicked on the way up are kicking him on the way down. Assemblyman RonKim (D – Queens) and others hammer Andrew for his threats, screams, and venomous narcissism. His current staffers call his office a toxic workplace.
•As these charges engulf Andrew, now-emboldened accusers increasingly charge this weakened man with misconduct. This plunges him into an ever-deepening, ever-tightening whirlpool of suspicion, corruption, and legal jeopardy.
But how far down will Andrew go?
In the 150-seat State Assembly, New York magazine reports, some 40 of 106 Democrats have demanded the governor’s resignation, as have 38 of 43 Republicans. Those 78 would be two more votes than necessary to unleash impeachment.
Beyond Albany’s state capital,U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a growing crowd of top New York Democrats (and Republicans) want Andrew’s head to roll.
Will Andrew buckle beneath this pressure and quit, thus sullying even further this prominent family and genuine example of just how far the children of immigrants can go in America?
Will state lawmakers, including Democrats, pry Andrew from power?
Or will Andrew hunker down, plow forward, and — against all odds — hang on and finish his term on December 31, 2022…or possibly seek a record fourth term?
Only the future knows.
For now, the best clue may be Andrew Cuomo’s recent, defiant words to a female supporter on the sidewalks of New York: “I’m not going anywhere, darling!”
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News Contributor, a contributing editor with National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research. Bucknell University’s Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece. This article first appeared in the Swiss publication Die Weltwoche.
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