Well, he comes from the land of chutzpah.
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying his hand at a political comeback, spending $369,000 in campaign funds on a TV ad and live-tweeting the State of the Union as his first forays into public life since he resigned in disgrace in August 2021.
I would like to report an unwanted advance on the public square.
The ad attempts to recast Cuomo as a victim. “Political attacks won,” the 30-second message concludes over a shot of a tanned Cuomo in gubernatorial, bill-signing action, “And New York lost a proven leader.”
To call the former governor embattled would be an understatement. Rarely has a politician gone from the pinnacle of public life and media adulation to its nadir in such dramatic fashion. In the summer of 2020, Cuomo was so high on his pandemic perch that he spawned a nickname for fans who held his daily COVID-era press briefings in semi-erotic esteem—Cuomosexuals.
He conducted briefings in the style of a traveling medicine show, whipping a royal blue curtain away to reveal various spectacles. Cuomo once unveiled a six-ft foam sculpture of a mountain signifying his state’s COVID curve and its triumph over the coronavirus. Another time, he produced a quilt made of 100 cloth masks.
That really happened.
Come! Feast your eyes upon the Amazing COVID Conqueror, Cuomo, and his many wonders!
“We paid the price and we dealt with that spike and we climbed right upon the mountain,” Cuomo said, standing beside the foam peak he had his staff constructed with what looked like $185 of arts and crafts material from Michael’s.
In July 2020, he unveiled another art project. This one a retro Victorian-era political poster, again depicting the mountain of the New York City’s—and by extension, his—adversity. It was, according to The New York Times, “festooned with icons of death and decline, overlaid with text flying in every direction,” showing Cuomo’s New York as tough and triumphant.
These were not the worst of his sins, not by a long shot, but they point to the pride before the fall, and the audacity that drives his attempted rehabilitation. This is a man so convinced of his own greatness that he unveiled the equivalent of his journal musings in papier mache and pastels.
It turns out his alleged command of COVID, the credulous press write-ups, and the cringey art masked a very different story—one that brought a legendary bully down.
“While he was covering up this failure, Cuomo was selling a book on his own historic COVID leadership for more than $5 million…”
Cuomo stands accused of three different kinds of offenses as governor, which became the subject of a slew of potentially criminal and ethics inquiries (both state and federal), before Cuomo resigned to avoid yet another investigation in the form of impeachment.
First was his infamous March 2020 directive requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients after they were treated in hospitals. The order stood for six weeks at the height of the pandemic while the Javits Center and the Navy hospital ship “Comfort” stood mostly empty. Cuomo and his aides worked to obscure the total of nursing home deaths for months, once they realized their liability. When they finally came clean under relentless pressure from families of nursing home victims, the number of deaths had roughly tripled from the first figures of 5,000 to 15,000.
While he was covering up this failure, Cuomo was selling a book on his own historic COVID leadership for more than $5 million, which a state board later determined he used official staff to write and promote, in violation of ethics rules.
And finally, Cuomo was hit with a cascade of sexual harassment complaints and allegations of retaliation, starting with aide Lindsay Boylan in February 2021. Under pressure, the unfortunately nicknamed “Luv Guv” had New York state Attorney General Leticia James investigate those allegations. A 160+ page report explored the allegations of 11 women and found a pattern of unwanted touching and kissing, with photographic evidence and contemporaneous texts and reports describing inappropriate behavior. The State Assembly also found “overwhelming evidence” that he was engaged in misconduct.
It is only this last category Cuomo’s comeback ad addresses, using the absence of criminal charges as evidence of his alleged railroading. “An innocent man,” one New York Daily News headline proclaims on screen as the narrator brags, “not one has resulted in prosecution.” But the ad ignores Cuomo’s own words on the allegations upon his resignation, which concede much of the alleged contact took place but didn’t rise to inappropriate in his estimation.
“Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended and for that I deeply deeply apologize…In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” the former governor said.
CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale pointed out that one of Cuomo’s pieces of evidence— a CBS report that there was “witness tampering and perjury”— was just a report quoting Cuomo’s own lawyer’s allegations of witness tampering and perjury.
So, who is Cuomo’s audience?
It’s not the press, which is fickle at best, and now without Cuomo’s most receptive helper, his brother Chris Cuomo—formerly of CNN but no longer there to assist Andrew in covering up sexual harassment allegations, screen questions, and smear the governor’s critics.
Is it New Yorkers, who are now bereft of his leadership? An October Marist poll showed 77 percent of adults did not want to see him run again, while he placed a distant second in a four-way race to his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In true Cuomo style, he and his spokesman Rich Azzopardi are attacking those who criticize him. James is called a “serial liar” with a “sham report” on Cuomo’s Twitter feed, alongside more orthodox commentary on Biden’s State of the Union meant to cast Cuomo as an early crusader for liberal policies.
Before James, Cuomo threatened to “destroy” Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim for searching for answers on nursing home deaths, and he dismissed Fox News’ Janice Dean—who lost her in-laws to COVID while in nursing homes in April 2020—as “not a credible source on anything except maybe the weather.” The ex-governor also said a state trooper who had accused him of groping was trying to “extort” him.
“I’m an artist,” Cuomo declared in 2020, standing beside his middle-school science project COVID mountain of styrofoam.
He is, indeed, an artist. His medium is bullshit, and absolutely no one should buy it again.