Cuomo is obliterating his own (undeserved) COVID hero myth
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw a fit when asked by reporters whether or not New York City schools would be open the next day.
Casual Cuomo observers were shocked by the “Lov Gov”‘s fumbling belligerence.
They shouldn’t be. He’s got a long track record of being a prickly, thin-skinned egoist who won’t abide any criticism, or even inconvenient questions.
The “COVID hero” myth he’s embraced of himself is just that, a myth.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Andrew Cuomo was once America’s COVID sweetheart.
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump’s science denial, unhinged conspiracy theory-mongering, and dangerous “bleach cure” speculation left a gaping leadership void.
As the coronavirus devastated New York City and deeply impacted other parts of New York state, Cuomo’s daily press conferences became a lifeline of mostly reliable information, delivered with calmness and certitude. The governor’s briefings, which could last hours, became must-watch viewing and a balm to Americans’ frayed nerves.
“The Luv Gov” was suddenly everybody’s civic celebrity crush. “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah declared himself a “Cuomosexual.” During one of many cloying interviews on his brother Chris’ CNN show, Andrew Cuomo downplayed his reputation as a prickly political tactician and called himself “a cool dude in a loose mood.”
But in the roughly six months since New York “flattened the curve” Cuomo has revealed himself again and again to be a dissembling, short-tempered narcissist.
And as a crisis manager, his track record is overrated, to put it kindly. Now that America’s getting a better look at the Luv Gov, the summer crush is fading.
Cool guy in a loose mood blows a gasket upon being asked a perfectly reasonable question
“Let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone,” Cuomo scolded Wall Street Journal reporter Jimmy Vielkind, who on Wednesday had the audacity to ask whether or not the governor would override New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (which Cuomo typically relishes doing) on the issue of whether schools should stay open.
Cuomo condescendingly told Vielkind that he was “confused” and “not paying attention.”
New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley followed up by telling the governor that Vielkind had asked a completely reasonable question that wasn’t “obnoxious at all.”
“Well, I don’t really care what you think,” Cuomo replied.
At that point in the press briefing, New York City parents (myself included) had no idea whether or not schools would be open the next day. We learned during that presser, just as the governor did, that the city schools would indeed be closing despite the buildings being declared by city health officials as pretty much the safest public spaces in the city.
Later in the presser, the cool guy in a loose mood said: “If you’re socially distant, and you wore a mask, and you were smart, none of this would be a problem — it’s all self imposed. If you didn’t eat the cheesecake you wouldn’t have a weight problem.”
That’s a pretty tone-deaf statement for someone previously praised for his cool-headedness and empathy. There are thousands of workers who have no choice but to go back to work in potentially unsafe conditions for any number of reasons, not least of which would be the lack of sufficient financial support from the government.
Casual Cuomo observers were taken aback by the governor’s fumbling belligerence.
They shouldn’t be. Cuomo has bought into his own myth, and he really doesn’t like being challenged.
Cuomo’s record doesn’t match his reputation
Cuomo’s petty turf wars with De Blasio created needless chaos and confusion at the start of the pandemic. Cuomo’s order to nursing homes that they must accept COVID-positive patients proved disastrous. And he’s repeatedly flouted the travel restrictions and mask guidelines he’s imposed on the citizenry.
But rather than conceding he’s made mistakes (which everyone does), he’s hawking a memoir called “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” whose last chapter is mystifyingly called: “The Aftermath.”
This summer, Cuomo’s own administration cleared itself of responsibility for the thousands of nursing home deaths following his order.
Despite the fact that many leading Democrats have clamored for an independent investigation, and mainstream news outlets like the Associated Press have agitated for data transparency, Cuomo continues to insist that calls for any further inquiry are merely “toxic” Republican partisan attacks.
And in October, Cuomo made his most cynical effort yet to memory hole the nursing home order by claiming — in contradiction of his own administration’s report — that no nursing home accepted a COVID-positive patient because they were direct to do by the state.
At the start of the pandemic, people needed a hero, and Cuomo was all too happy to take up the mantle. But his disgraceful display at yesterday’s press conference is more indicative of the kind of “leader” Cuomo really is.
He’s a slippery, grudge-holding egoist who won’t abide any criticism, or even inconvenient questions.
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