Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim said Gov. Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him if he did not cover up for Secretary Melissa DeRosa after she admitted that Cuomo’s administration omitted deaths from the death toll among nursing home residents.

Kim detailed the call on CNN.

“His top aide had lied about hiding data information from the federal government for political reasons. She admitted to that in a private meeting and it was exposed and the governor called for about 10 minutes, it seemed like 1 hour, berating, yelling and threatening that I have to issue a statement that invalidated what I heard,” Kim told CNN

RELATED: Cuomo Administration Undercounted New York Nursing Home Deaths by 50%

“He asked me to lie to cover up for his staff and this was done in front of my family. He called me, my wife was right next to me. I was right about to bathe my kids and it really just put my family and my wife into shock for many hours and she couldn’t get any sleep that night,” Kim continued.

“It’s highly inappropriate for the governor to have done that. He said I haven’t seen his anger. I haven’t seen his wrath and… he will go out tomorrow and destroy my political career, everything. He would say how bad of a person I am to everyone…”

Kim claimed that Cuomo directed him what to say in a statement to cover up for the death toll omissions.

Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi denounced the accusations.

“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night. I know because I was one of the three other people in the room when the phone call occurred. At no time did anyone threaten ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration,” Azzopardi said.

Gov. Cuomo’s original reported nursing home death toll was in the 8,000 range, but state Attorney General Letitia James’ 76-page report revealed that the death toll could be above 13,000 if taking into account those who died after being sent to the hospitals.

The state health department was only reporting those who died while they were physically inside the nursing home.

The report also shows that 4,000 residents died after Cuomo’s March 25 mandate for nursing homes to admit patients even if they were COVID-19 positive.

The March 25 mandate came as part of a Health Department directive that said: “No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to the [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

If you are positive, you should be admitted back to a nursing home,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said.

“The necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other residents there,” Zucker said.

Ron Kim said that Zucker’s claim that “necessary precautions” were being taken was false. 

“It’s either he’s lying or they have absolutely no idea what’s going on on the ground,” Kim said.

“The staff, the families, everyone is telling me there’s completely a lack of support and they don’t have the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment] to be safe.”

The mandate was the subject of criticism as most of the people being sent to the nursing homes seemed to be part of the most vulnerable population to COVID.

As a result of the alleged death toll omissions, many of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats including Kim accused him of “Obstruction of Justice” and subsequently pushed for legislation to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-related emergency powers.

“It is now unambiguously clear that this governor has engaged in an intentional obstruction of justice, as outlined in Title 18, Chapter 73 of the United States Code… In response to this criminal use of power, Assemblymember Ron Kim and Senator [Alessandra] Biaggi are introducing a bill to repeal the amendments to the Executive Law that were passed by the Legislature one year ago…that expanded the Governor’s authority to unilaterally suspend entire state statutes in response to an impending state emergency,” Kim and other lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Assembly.

For months during the pandemic, several media organizations and lawmakers requested the death toll information from Cuomo’s administration, but Cuomo did not disclose the information.

Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi claimed they did not fulfill requests to disclose the information because they were in the midst of completing the federal DOJ requests. 

“We paused the state legislature’s request for information because we were completing the federal DOJ requests,” Azzopardi said.

Written ByLinn Win

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