ALBANY, New York (LifeSiteNews) – A damning report by New York lawmakers found that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his senior aides edited state COVID-19 reports and undercounted nursing home deaths while using state resources to help Cuomo land a $5 million book deal.
The report, released Monday by the Judiciary Committee of the New York State Assembly, also found “overwhelming evidence” that the disgraced Democratic ex-governor sexually harassed or assaulted nearly a dozen women.
“The former governor’s conduct – as shown in this report – is extremely disturbing and is indicative of someone who is not fit for office,” said Judiciary Chairman Charles Lavine. “I hope this report helps New Yorkers further understand the seriousness of the allegations that have been made and serves to guide us to a more ethical and responsible government. New Yorkers deserve no less.”
New York House Speaker Carl Heastie commissioned the investigation in March as a part of an impeachment probe into the then-governor, who resigned in August, a week after the state attorney general’s office concluded that he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP conducted the Assembly inquiry, reviewing around 600,000 pages of documents and interviewing or receiving testimony from at least 200 people.
The eight-month impeachment investigation corroborated much of the attorney general’s findings, which stated that Cuomo “sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” in addition to retaliating against at least one accuser.
The Assembly report affirmed that there is “overwhelming evidence that the former governor engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment.”
Democrat leaders in the State Assembly have said that they will not attempt to impeach Cuomo now that he has left office, though the report said that the Judicial Committee has referred information to law enforcement.
“The appropriate law-enforcement agencies should now use the substantial information uncovered by the impeachment investigation and determine what additional action is necessary,” Republican committee members said in a statement Monday. New York Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt have slammed Democrats for not taking additional action.
Cuomo, who has refused to comply with Assembly subpoenas, continues to deny any wrongdoing.
‘Substantial’ revisions of COVID death reports
Against the recommendations of health experts, then-Gov. Cuomo memorably directed nursing homes to take back patients after hospitalization for coronavirus in the early weeks of the pandemic. The move has been credited with significantly exacerbating COVID deaths among the elderly in New York, where over 15,000 nursing home residents have died of the virus – more than in any other state.
While Cuomo negotiated a multi-million-dollar book deal about his handling of COVID-19, he and top aides “substantially revised” reports by state health officials to downplay nursing home deaths, the Assembly found.
The investigation focused on a July report by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) that cleared Cuomo of blame for a surge in elderly deaths attributed by many to his administration’s policies. The report notably did not count residents who were infected with the virus in nursing homes but died in hospitals or other long-term care facilities.
Out-of-facility deaths, which the Cuomo administration privately tracked, totaled around 3,000 at the time, and would have pushed New York’s nursing home toll to more than 9,000.
“Evidence obtained during our investigation demonstrates that while the DOH Report was released under the auspices of DOH, it was substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms regarding former Governor Cuomo’s directive that nursing homes should readmit residents that had been diagnosed with COVID-19,” the Assembly report revealed.
Cuomo personally edited the document “on multiple occasions,” changing it to “strengthen the defense” of his nursing home order, investigators said. “While the DOH Report accurately stated that the disclosed numbers related to in-facility deaths only, the decision to exclude the out-of-facility deaths resulted in a report that was not fully transparent.”
The governor’s involvement in the DOH report came as Cuomo and his aides began discussions about his book deal, which was later sealed with Penguin Random House for $5.1 million. The book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic, published in October 2020, flopped amid Cuomo’s mounting scandals, selling just 50,000 copies.
“Between mid-July and mid-August 2020, senior Executive Chamber staff drafted and edited portions of the then-Governor’s Book manuscript and spoke with the publisher’s team about proposed revisions and drafts by email, over the phone, and in person, including on weekdays and during work hours,” according to the Assembly’s findings. “During the drafting, there was particular attention paid to the nursing home section of the Book, and a senior Executive Chamber official noted that this section was ‘critically important.’”
Investigators added that a senior Cuomo official who acted as a “key point person” for the book deal – believed to be Melissa DeRosa – decided that only in-facility deaths should be counted in the DOH’s July report.
New York State Joint Committee on Public Ethics (JCOPE) stipulated that no state personnel or other resources could be used for Cuomo’s memoir when the committee approved his book deal last year. JCOPE voted 12-1 last week to rescind the previous authorization, which could lead to the former governor losing his earnings.
DeRosa also reportedly tried to coerce a top DOH official – identified by the New York Post as health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker – to testify before the state senate that the DOH, not the Executive Chamber, authored Cuomo’s nursing home edict. The statement is not true and Zucker refused, the impeachment report said.
On another occasion, Cuomo aides prevented Zucker from publishing the full nursing home death count in August 2020. The New York attorney general’s office found earlier this year that the state’s nursing home deaths may have been 50 percent higher than originally reported.
‘Criminal public fraud’
The Assembly report extensively detailed Cuomo’s reliance on state staff to write and promote his failed memoir. “One senior state official explained that Book-related assignments were given by superiors and expected to be completed, and the work was not voluntary,” the report noted. “Further, the state official was never told about any restrictions related to his work on the Book, from JCOPE or otherwise.”
“Another senior state official complained in a text message to a colleague that work on the Book was compromising the official’s ability to work on COVID-related matters,” it continued. Junior state employees were likewise “asked by senior Executive Chamber officials to perform tasks that were related to the Book as part of their regular course of work.”
“The time and effort spent on the Book by both the then-Governor and other state officials necessarily detracted from their state duties during the intense period when the then-Governor, Executive Chamber employees and other state officials were continuously engaged in the pandemic response,” the report concluded.
“At the peak of the pandemic the governor and his top aides were chasing down a $5.1 million book deal engaged in a race to the highest bidder while everyone was suffering,” Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim said Tuesday on Fox & Friends.
“This is criminal public fraud when you are suppressing life and death data,” added Kim, whose uncle died of COVID in a nursing home. “If we had real-time truth and accountability and data, we could have legislated differently and saved thousands of people’s lives, and he took that right away from us.”
Cuomo is the second Democratic governor of New York to resign amid sexual misconduct scandals in the last 13 years, following former Gov. Elliot Spitzer. Cuomo’s successor as New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, also resigned in the wake of sexual assault allegations in 2018.