The role of a satirist is similar to that of a caricaturist, which is why Saturday Night Live’s recent skit of New York governor Andrew Cuomo in the aftermath of the nursing-home deaths scandal wasn’t particularly funny. “We are not the same,” says Cuomo (played by Pete Davidson) to Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant), who is sipping a cocktail and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, just back from Cancun: “I am a man. You are a clown. If you mess with me, I will send you to a clown hospital. And if you die, I will not count your body.”
If anything, this portrayal is more flattering than how Cuomo appears in real life.
After the New York attorney general reported that the state had undercounted nursing-home deaths by as much as 50 percent, the New York Post revealed that Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, admitted during a video conference with Democratic lawmakers that the Cuomo administration had covered up the true death toll for fear that it would be “used against us.”
It’s not only conservatives who are furious with him. Last week, a news conference and rally were held outside the Department of Justice offices at which family members of elderly patients demanded a federal investigation. They will get their wish. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have subsequently opened an investigation. State assembly Republicans are moving to form an impeachment commission “to gather facts and evidence” surrounding Cuomo’s “handling and the subsequent cover-up of the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes.” Even state Democrats are moving to strip Cuomo of his unilateral emergency pandemic powers.
Writing in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, John Daukas, former acting attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, argued that Cuomo’s cover-up could merit federal criminal charges. And National Review’s Andy McCarthy has explained that “besides potential civil-rights liability, the Cuomo administration could face problems because the nursing homes that the state oversees receive lots of federal money through Medicare and Medicaid.”
Though his deadly mistakes aren’t amusing, the contrast between how he has acted and how he sees himself is certainly laugh-worthy.
What comedy skit of Cuomo could be more ridiculous than the sight of his own book on the window display at my local bookstore, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, with a picture of him on the front, hands clasped and looking regal? What could be more embarrassing for him than his appearance on Ellen last year in which he grinned at the term, “Cuomosexual,” as his host called him “charming and adorable” and said, straight-faced, that “people are in love with you.” He believed it. SNL presented Cuomo as “a man,” with at least a semblance of self-awareness. But Cuomo presents Cuomo as a god.
Let’s not forget that his fall from universal grace was preceded by stunning arrogance. Last year, he described the watchdog Empire Center for Public Policy’s lawsuit to force Cuomo to release the true death toll as “yet another publicity stunt from an arm of the far-right advocacy industrial complex.”
Then, last November, there was that shambolic press conference about school reopenings at which the Wall Street Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind asked whether schools in New York City would be opening the next day. “Let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone,” the governor said, adding that the reporter was “100 percent wrong,” since, when it came to school closures, “we did it already. That’s the law. An orange zone and a red zone. Follow the facts.”
Vielkind replied: “I’m confused . . . and I think parents are still confused as well.” But Cuomo said, “No, they’re not confused. You’re confused. Read the law, and you won’t be confused.” At which point, a New York Times reporter said she also was confused, and Cuomo said: “Well, I don’t really care what you think. Of course you’ll agree with him because you’re in the same business with him.”
It turns out that, despite being 100 percent certain, Cuomo was 100 percent wrong.
Now that’s funny.