A New York assemblyman has claimed that he was threatened by Governor Andrew Cuomo and told ‘I can destroy you’ if he did not issue a positive statement regarding the nursing home cover-up scandal.
Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim claimed he received an angry phone call from Cuomo on Thursday after he was quoted in a New York Post article that revealed new details about how the governor’s administration held back the true numbers on nursing home deaths from COVID-19.
Kim alleges that Cuomo shouted at him for ten minutes and asked him ‘are you an honorable man?’ before the governor added that he ‘hadn’t seen his wrath and anger’ before.
Cuomo appeared to make good on his alleged threat on Wednesday as he criticized Kim during a press briefing and claimed that he and the assembly member had a ‘long and hostile relationship’.
He also suggested that Kim was guilty of practces that were ‘unethical if not illegal’.
Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim (pictured) claims he was threatened by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in a phonecall last week over the nursing home cover-up scandal
Cuomo said in a briefing Wedneday that he and Kim have a ‘long and hostile relationship’
The governor claimed that the tension rose from a 2015 bill to reform nail salons that the Cuomo proposed, and Kim voted against.
Kim has been a vocal critic of Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home deaths for months as he believes his own uncle died from a presumed case of COVID in a nursing home last year.
Last week, he commented to the Post after being present during a virtual call with Democratic lawmakers in which Cuomo’s top aide admitted that his administration had withheld data on the nursing home deaths from state lawmakers as they feared an official investigation from the federal government.
Kim, who represents the Queens district that was hardest hit at the height of the pandemic, told the Post that secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa’s comments sounded like the governor was ‘trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence’.
The assemblyman said he also called on Cuomo to apologize to family members of those who died in assisted living facilities during the call.
Cuomo was allegedly angered by Kim’s statement to the Post and made the call later that day in an effort to make him pull them back and issue a positive statement instead.
Kim said that all amounted to the governor threatening to tarnish his reputation if he did not decide to publicly back Cuomo.
CNN reinstates ban on Chris Cuomo featuring family – as the host remains silent on his NY governor brother’s nursing home scandal
CNN has allegedly reinstated a ban on host Chris Cuomo interviewing his brother, Andrew, despite allowing the New York governor to appear on his show more than ten times last year.
The network was questioned by the Washington Post on Tuesday after Chris, 50, failed to mention his 63-yar-old brother while addressing the biggest stories related to COVID-19 on his show the previous night.
The host’s silence came just hours after the governor had finally addressed in a press conference the latest scandal surrounding his handling of the data involving COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
And as Democrats continued to turn against the governor, with nine state assembly members on Tuesday accusing him of an ‘obstruction of justice’.
The Post had criticized CNN for allowing Chris to deliver ‘over-the-top praise when the governor is up; silence when he’s down’, after the host completely ignored the press conference, which had been among the main coronavirus stories of the day.
CNN said in a statement to the publication that they had earlier allowed the host to break the rules on him interviewing family members as the first months of the pandemic crisis ‘were an extraordinary time’.
The network also argued that it has ‘covered the news surrounding Governor Cuomo extensively’.
Yet the decision to now continue to ban after an extended break comes after months of praise being heaped on the governor by his brother in more than ten appearances on his show.
‘Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,’ Kim told CNN.
‘No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,’ he added.
‘At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t.’
Kim’s wife also told CNN that she had overheard fragments of the call, which took place as the assemblymen had been bathing is children.
She said that she hard Cuomo ask ‘who do you think you are?’ and reference ‘my wrath’ and that she sounded ‘loud’ and ‘angry’ on the phone.
‘The governor threatened to destroy my life,’ Kim allegedly told her once he had hung up.
The assemblyman said that after the first phone call, Cuomo attempted to contact him on multiple occasions over the weekend using a ‘No Caller ID’ number.
He said that Cuomo’s aides also told him that the givernor would like to speak to him again.
Kim said he did not return the calls but told CNN that he had since retained a lawyer as he believed the call made him feel that the governor had asked him to lie about the cover-up.
Three additional Democratic New York lawmakers told CNN anonymously that they had also heard and experienced an aggressive lobby from Cuomo and his aides ijn the past week and his administration tries to negate the bad press he is receiving over the scandal.
An advisor to Cuomo initially denied that the governor had threatened Kim.
‘Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false,’ senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told CNN.
‘The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics”.’
Azzopardi also claimed that Kim had initially agreed to issue a new statement in the phone call and that the follow ups over the weekend were only because he had failed to do so.
Cuomo began to address the matter himself on Wednesday as he issued accuations of impropriety at the assemblyman.
He accused the fifth-term assemblyman of a ‘continuing racket’ in accepting donations from nail salon owners.
Cuomo claimed that Kim voted agaisnt the bill that he had helped craft after siding with the salon owners who were upset about the reform it would introduced.
He suggested Kim engaged in ‘pay to play’ and said it was ‘unethical if not illegal’.
Cuomo noted a New York Times article from that year that examined financial contributions to Kim after he had changed his position on the salon reform bill.
The governor appeared particularly angered on during the briefing by a letter issued by Kim and six other Democratic state assembly members on Tuesday in which they accused Cuomo of an ‘intentional obstruction of justice’.
The letter said that Cuomo attempted to circumvent a federal probe by delaying the release of a complete tally of deaths of nursing home residents.
Up until last month, the state had claimed that only 8,500 people had died in nursing homes.
Yet these figures did not include deaths of nursing home residents who were hospitalized and then died in hospital.
Despite the criticism he received from Cuomo on Wednesday, Kim said that he stands ‘100%’ be his allegations about the threat and was disappointed by the suggestion that he had an ulterior politcal motive.
‘There’s no undoing here. They have blood on their hands,’ Kim said. ‘We’re talking about his record of performance in the last 10 months.’
Cuomo will be standing for relection next year.
On Tuesday, a survey released by Siena College revealed that Cuomo still hold a good favorability rating among New Yorkers although his approval rating had dropped slightly in the past month.
However, the poll was carried out before Post revealed DeRosa’s comments last week.
They did come after a report from Attorney General Letitia James’ office forced the state to finally release the fingures showing the true extent of COVID nursing home deaths.
In the survey, New Yorkers failed Cuomo on his handling of the scandal.