New York State assemblyman Ron Kim (D., Queens) claims that Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him over Kim’s criticism of the state’s handling of coronavirus in nursing homes, CNN reported on Wednesday.
Cuomo aide Melissa de Rosa admitted to state lawmakers last week that the state had misrepresented data on the number of residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities who died of coronavirus, in comments reported by the New York Post. While the state reported about 8,500 coronavirus victims in nursing homes as of early February, the true toll was nearly 15,000 deaths.
Assemblyman Kim, a progressive lawmaker whose uncle is presumed to have died of coronavirus at a nursing home in April, has blasted the Cuomo administration’s handling of the crisis. Last week, however, the governor called Kim directly and threatened him if he did not “cover” for de Rosa.
“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. Kim said that Cuomo told him “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”
Kim added, “No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life….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.”
Kim has hired a lawyer, saying it was necessary because he felt Cuomo had tried to pressure him into lying about de Rosa’s statements.
Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi denied that the governor threatened to “destroy” Kim, however Kim maintains that Cuomo said this “100 percent.”
“There’s no undoing here. They have blood on their hands,” Kim said.
During a press conference on Wednesday before CNN’s story broke, Cuomo lashed out at Kim, accusing the assemblyman of engaging in a pay-for-play scheme on behalf of nail salon businesses.
“[Kim] actually used his lobbying firm to lobby on behalf of the business owners…then raised money from those business owners and continues to do so,” Cuomo alleged. “I believe it’s unethical, if not illegal. And I believe it’s a continuing racket because he’s still doing it.”
For his part, Kim called to revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers granted by the state legislature earlier in the pandemic.
“We need to check him and say, enough is enough. You can’t rope us into your coverup,” Kim told NY1 news.