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Politics & Policy

Governor Cuomo Announces to New York That He Doesn’t Trust Experts Anymore

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a daily briefing in New York City, July 13, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The Buffalo News, back in April 2020:

It’s not just the pundits and the public who came away impressed with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in the early weeks of its spread across New York.

Pandemic experts – New York’s epidemiologists and infectious disease physicians – praised Cuomo, too.

“Gov. Cuomo has become an excellent leader on Covid-19, not just for New York, but the entire nation,” said Chloe A. Teasdale, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. “He is using available data and expert scientific input to guide the New York State response and is communicating clearly and frequently with the public about what is happening and what they need to do.”

But it turns out the reassuring story that Cuomo trusted the experts and the experts trusted Cuomo was just another part of the misleading mythology around the New York governor.

And Cuomo isn’t really hiding it anymore. Friday, he said, “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts. Because I don’t. Because I don’t.”

The New York Times reports that the state’s deputy commissioner for public health, director of its bureau of communicable-disease control, medical director for epidemiology, and state epidemiologist all resigned in a matter of months, along with five other high-level state health officials, as senior health officials “expressed alarm to one another over being sidelined and treated disrespectfully by the governor.”

That the governor and his administration lied and covered up nursing-home deaths is no longer in dispute. The state ordered nursing homes to readmit recovering but still-contagious elderly patients; the state’s health department removed the order from its website, and earlier this month, Cuomo insisted the order to send patients back into nursing homes “never happened.” CNN, which employs Governor Cuomo’s brother Chris as a primetime anchor, concluded in its fact check that Cuomo’s assertion that “it never happened” is false.

And apparently everyone has decided to forget the time in October when Cuomo said he didn’t have confidence in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the coronavirus vaccines.

(You may recall similar stories about New York City mayor Bill de Blasio having similar disregard for experts: “arguments and shouting matches between the mayor and some of his advisers; some top health officials had even threatened to resign if he refused to accept the need to close schools and businesses, according to several people familiar with the internal discussions.” De Blasio spent much of February and March of 2020 insisting that New Yorkers could and should go about their lives normally, despite growing worries about the contagious virus.)

All the while, Cuomo’s been joking about his “Cuomosexual” fan base with Jimmy Fallon, doing wacky prop comedy with his brother on CNN, winning an Emmy, and writing a book taking a victory lap.

Apparently now that Donald Trump is out of office, it is safe to take a clear-eyed look at the performance of prominent Democratic officeholders and speak honestly about it. Some of us have been speaking honestly about Cuomo since the pandemic began. But all of us would have been better off if this honesty and criticism were far more widespread months ago.


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