New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) threatened to “destroy” him over comments he made about the state’s widening scandal on COVID-related nursing home deaths, CNN reported.
The big picture: Cuomo has come under intense scrutiny over his handling of the state’s nursing homes during the pandemic, prompting widespread criticism and a damning report from the state’s attorney general that found the health department significantly undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes.
What he’s saying: “Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said,” Kim told CNN. “He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience.”
Background: The incident happened after Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, privately told lawmakers on a Zoom call that the state had withheld pandemic-related nursing home death tolls from them because “the Justice Department had made a similar request,” and she was concerned about a federal investigation, the New York Times reports.
- Kim was on the call and subsequently told the New York Post that he thought the governor should apologize for New York’s nursing home deaths.
- Kim has been an outspoken critic of the governor throughout the pandemic
- Kim went on to claim Cuomo told him, “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me,” according to Kim.
- Kim also told the The New York Times the conversation lasted around 10 minutes during which Cuomo demanded the lawmaker release a statement clarifying his criticism of the governor last week.
- He told CNN he received several “NO CALLER ID” calls over followed by messages from Cuomo aides saying the the governor wanted to speak to him.
Cuomo attacked Kim in personal terms on press call on Wednesday, and claimed Kim had told him the New York Post misquoted Kim, and that Kim had promised to put out a statement correcting it.
The New York Post also reports:
A state lawmaker from Queens says a spitting-mad Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him if he didn’t help contain the damage over the Cuomo administration’s cover-up of nursing home resident COVID-19 deaths.
Assemblyman Ron Kim — whose uncle died of the coronavirus in a nursing home — said Wednesday that he got a phone call from the fellow-Democrat governor on the night of Feb. 11 that quickly turned dark, with Cuomo ultimately warning, “You have not seen my wrath.”
The call came shortly after The Post exclusively reported how Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa admitted on a conference call with lawmakers that Cuomo’s administration withheld the true death toll among nursing home residents for fear it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.
“At first, there was a silence on the phone,” Kim said.
“Then the governor says, ‘Mr. Kim, are you an honorable man?’”
Kim, who had taken part in the Feb. 10 conference call with DeRosa and who lashed out at Cuomo over the cover-up in The Post article, said he was “in the middle of bathing my kids” when Cuomo called.
Cuomo, he said, asked him to draft a statement “to say that Melissa DeRosa said there was a federal investigation and they had to deal with that first.”
The conversation quickly turned medieval, Kim said, with Cuomo warning him, “You have not seen my wrath. I have been biting my tongue for months.”
“I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished,” Kim recalled Cuomo saying.
“You will be destroyed.”
Cuomo was so angry, Kim said, that “my wife could hear the governor yelling into the phone.”
At one point, Cuomo — a former state attorney general — also asked Kim if he was a lawyer, which he is not.
“After that call, we were devastated. My wife didn’t sleep at all,” Kim said.
Later, Cuomo “called me four or five times on Saturday” but he didn’t pick up, Kim said.
Kim has been among Cuomo’s most outspoken critics since his uncle, Son Kim, died in a nursing home in April after suffering symptoms of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, he introduced legislation to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-related emergency powers, and he also sent a letter — co-signed by eight Assembly Democrats — that accused Cuomo of violating the federal law against obstruction of justice.
Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, issued a nearly 800-word, prepared statement in which he accused Kim of “lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night.”
“ I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred,” Azzopardi said.
“At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’”