Politics & Policy

Top Cuomo Aide Admits Coverup of Nursing Home Deaths, Sparking Bipartisan Calls for Prosecution

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York City, June 10, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

A top aide to Governor Cuomo admitted that the administration covered up the true data on nursing home deaths from the coronavirus in New York state in order to hide the magnitude of the issue from federal authorities.

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa apologized to state Democratic lawmakers during a recent video conference call, saying “we froze” out of fear that the real nursing home death numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors, the New York Post reported.

In September, the state Senate sought to obtain more accurate numbers from the state health department about the number of nursing home patients who died, a request the Cuomo administration dismissed, DeRosa said.

“Right around the same time,” then-President Trump “turns this into a giant political football” and directed the Justice Department to investigate the Cuomo administration, DeRosa said. “He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes.”

“And basically, we froze,” she told the New York Democratic lawmakers during the two-hour call. “Because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation.”

“That played a very large role into this,” she said.

DeRosa also apologized to the Democratic lawmakers for the political chaos the Cuomo administration’s handling of the nursing home issue caused them. Neither Cuomo nor his administration have issued an apology to family members of the residents who died.

“So we do apologize,” DeRosa concluded. “I do understand the position that you were put in. I know that it is not fair. It was not our intention to put you in that political position with the Republicans.”

Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office released a report on an investigation into nursing home deaths in the state showing that New York may have undercounted coronavirus nursing home deaths by as much as half.

In the wake of the report, Cuomo attempted to downplay the importance of where nursing home deaths occurred.

“Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died,” he said at a press conference last month.

The astonishing admission from the governor’s top aide immediately sparked bipartisan calls for an investigation and for Cuomo’s prosecution.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik called for Cuomo, the secretary to the governor, and his senior team to be prosecuted “immediately” by the New York attorney general as well as the Justice Department.

“This bombshell admission of a coverup and the remarks by the Secretary to the Governor indicating intent to obstruct any federal investigation is a stunning and criminal abuse of power,” Stefanik said in a statement. “I have said from the beginning that this is more than a nursing home scandal, this is a massive corruption and coverup scandal at the highest level of New York State Government.”

Several Democrats reacted with choice words for the Cuomo administration as well.

“You’re only sorry that you all got caught. Because of your decisions, thousands of people died who did not have to die. We’re not ‘offended’, Melissa, we’re furious – with extremely good reason,” Democratic state Senator Alessandra Biaggi wrote in a tweet.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes, another New York Democrat, said Cuomo has committed a “betrayal of the public trust.”

“There needs to be full accountability for what happened, and the legislature needs to reconsider its broad grant of emergency powers to the governor,” Gounardes wrote in a tweet.

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