Elected leaders call for action on Gov. Cuomo following New York Post report

Report alleges Cuomo aide apologized for state's handling of nursing home death data
Virus Outbreak New York
Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 12, 2021

NEW YORK (WKBW) — Elected leaders are calling for action on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo following the release of a report from the New York Post.

Thursday evening the New York Post reported Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa, privately apologized to Democratic lawmakers for the way the state handled nursing home death data and allegedly said the state thought the numbers would be used against them by federal prosecutors.

The Post says DeRosa made the statements during a video conference call with state Democratic leaders. The Post says according to an audio recording of the meeting DeRosa allegedly stated the administration didn't fulfill a legislative request for the nursing home data in August because former President Donald Trump turned the death of nursing home patients into "political football" and reportedly directed the Department of Justice to begin an investigation.

The New York State Assembly Director of Communications Michael Whyland released the statement below in regard to the request for the data.

There was a formal request from Assembly committee chairs and other members to the Department of Health asking for more information on follow up questions in regards to data on nursing homes. The Governor's office communicated to staff that they needed more time to provide the information. Other than what was reported in the news, the Speaker had no knowledge of an official Department of Justice inquiry.
- New York State Assembly Director of Communications Michael Whyland

This report comes about two weeks after a report released by New York State Attorney General Letitia James found serious fault with the way nursing homes in the state handled the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeRosa released the following statement in response to the New York Post report.

I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature's request to deal with the federal request first. We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout. As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic.
- Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa

Elected leaders are now calling for action following the report.

The news today that Governor Cuomo’s top aide admitted to deliberately withholding information about COVID-19 deaths is the latest in a string of disturbing acts of corruption by his administration. This is clearly a gross obstruction of justice. Instead of apologizing or providing answers to the thousands of New York families who lost loved ones, the Governor’s administration made apologies to politicians behind closed doors for the “political inconvenience” this scandal has caused them.

There is no need to deny what everyone in Albany and around New York State already knows: Governor Cuomo controls every aspect of his administration with an obsessive attention to detail. I am again calling that Governor Cuomo and his administration be investigated from top to bottom and that he be stripped of his emergency powers. Justice needs to be brought for the grieving families who have been ignored to protect Governor Cuomo and his Democrat allies in the Legislature.

If the Governor is involved, he should be immediately removed from office.
- New York State Senator Rob Ortt (R - 62nd District)
To all my colleagues in Congress, including Democratic members of the New York Delegation -- the mountain of evidence cannot be ignored any longer.

Governor Cuomo’s disastrous March order knowingly sent COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, which led to the deaths of thousands of the state’s parents and grandparents.

Since that fateful order, the state has done everything in its power to downplay its horrific errors and prevent the public, lawmakers, and federal investigators from knowing the truth.

Now, the state’s convenient narrative is falling apart.

Please join us and echo our ongoing call for an independent and thorough investigation by the Biden Department of Justice into Governor Cuomo and New York State. Regardless of our party affiliation, we should be able to agree this is the only way to achieve justice for the thousands of grieving New York families. It is time to move past the lies and finally uncover the full truth.
- Congressman Tom Reed (R - 23rd District)
The administration’s efforts to distort and cover up the true number of COVID-related deaths in New York nursing homes are outrageous. It is clear that a thorough investigation is needed to determine the true scope of this crisis and find out who was involved in misleading the public. Fear of being held accountable is not a reason to break the law. The public trust has been broken and the legislature must immediately act to end the governor’s emergency powers.
- New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R - 59th District)
This news is heartbreaking but, sadly, not unexpected. After months of stonewalling and blaming everyone else for these deaths, we now know it’s been a cover up all along. This admission by Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, points to potential obstruction of justice, at the very least. The families of the thousands of people who lost their lives in New York’s nursing homes deserve no less than a complete and transparent investigation into how this happened.

It’s shocking to me that the first ever apology from this administration wasn’t to the families who lost loved ones, or to the New Yorkers who deserve answers. Instead, the first apology from this administration was to political insiders for inconveniencing them. That’s just cold-hearted and it speaks volumes about the character of this governor and his administration. Clearly they value political expediency over public health and safety.
- New York State Senator George Borrello (R - 57th District)
It is hard to find the words to express my frustration with the details of this report. I am incredibly saddened by how families who have already lost their loved ones have been disrespected by this administration after already going through the painful process of grief. We now know for certain that the governor put his reputation before the lives of over 15,000 nursing home residents, and we must keep all options on the table to hold him accountable, along with everyone else responsible for this tragedy and the ensuing cover-up. At this point, any excuses made to not rescind the governor’s emergency powers and immediately investigate this matter as thoroughly and independently as possible are entirely disingenuous, and we must now all put politics aside to do what’s right for the thousands of families who had their loved ones taken from them.
- Assemblymember Stephen Hawley (R - 139th District)
In the two weeks since the attorney general released her scathing report on Jan. 28, more and more questions have surfaced regarding Gov. Cuomo’s nursing home response and his true motivations for concealing vital public health information. While we now have greater insight, we won’t know the truth until there are full investigations into this matter. Whether it comes from the federal DOJ, the state attorney general, or subpoena-driven public hearings in the Legislature, we need answers and we need action.

Anyone involved in these decisions must be accountable for their decisions, and right now every possible mechanism to find accountability is on the table. At the very least, we must finally revoke Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers that he has held far too long – but that should only be the first step.
- New York State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R - 120th District)
We found out last night that the top aide to Gov. Cuomo admitted to Democratic leaders that the state administration deliberately hid COVID-19 data from nursing homes to avoid federal investigation. More and more evidence comes out with each passing day of the lies and deception the governor has told families of nursing home victims and the people of New York. Both Attorney General Letitia James and the governor’s top aide have now come out and pulled the curtain open, revealing clear evidence of the governor’s cover-up. We need to remove this man from office before he causes another tragedy and pursue justice for the thousands of nursing home victims he is trying to erase from the public memory.
- Assemblymember David DiPietro (R - 147th District)

The NY GOP congressional delegation has called for a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into Cuomo and his administration.

NY GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy also held a press conference in Buffalo Friday morning calling for "prosecution and impeachment."

7 Eyewitness News has contacted several Democratic elected leaders for a response/statement on the New York Post report, you can find the responses we have received below.

I was not on the call referenced in the media this week where a top aide to the Governor is alleged to have stated that she intentionally withheld data on the deaths of nursing home residents. I first learned of those allegations from media reports yesterday. Like so many New Yorkers, I’m outraged. Public officials have an obligation to be honest and truthful with the public at all times, even if the information is unfavorable. Only then can we make decisions and learn from our mistakes. Those who withheld the information from the public must be held accountable.

It is important to remember that when the administration gave the nursing home order, there were 800 people dying every day in New York State from the novel coronavirus, we didn’t know if there would be enough hospital beds, we were scrambling for respirators, we hadn’t yet realized that the virus was airborne, and we had a president who was telling everyone that the virus would magically go away. We now know how wrong we were on many things we didn’t know at the time. But by hiding information as it unfolded, we risked making things worse and put people's lives in jeopardy. That's unacceptable.

It's time revoke the emergency powers of the Governor. And we must put laws and procedures in place to make sure this never happens again. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring legislation to do just that.
- Assemblymember Monica Wallace (D - 143rd District)
The withholding of vital information regarding nursing homes deaths is unacceptable. The Governor’s Department of Health has failed a critical test for transparency. The information we have learned in the last 24 hours is troubling, and it has sparked a revaluation of the Governor’s emergency powers which he has used throughout the pandemic and which expire at the end of April. It has become quite clear that more legislative oversight is needed, and I look forward to discussing this situation with my colleagues in the Senate Majority later today. This should not be a time for politics or partisan attacks. The legislature should work expeditiously to restore the public’s trust and ensure accountability and full transparency.
- New York State Senator Sean Ryan (D - 60th District)
I was not on yesterday's call with the Governor’s administration where data on nursing home deaths was discussed. I am infuriated that politics trumped people and policy. The respective Assembly committee chairs had previously requested information regarding the State Department of Health data and its handling of nursing homes during COVID-19. Waiting over six months for a response is unacceptable. I expect the Department and administration to promptly fulfill all future information requests from the legislature. I was unaware of any dealings with the U.S. Department of Justice and only learned about it from the respective media.
- New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes (D - 141st District)
Governor Cuomo and his administration need to be held accountable. Actively hiding the Covid-19 nursing home death numbers while simultaneously denying there was a need for concern is outrageous.

We are at a critical point in the fight against the virus and cannot have this erosion of public trust sully the hard work of so many dedicated people.

I stand with many of my colleagues in affirming that the emergency powers granted to the Governor to manage the pandemic should not be renewed.
Assemblymember Jon Rivera (D - 149th District)
The Lt. Governor is on Long Island and in New York City today ensuring we’re getting shots in arms in underserved populations statewide. She remains laser focused working with state and local leaders on a coordinated rapid response and an inclusive recovery.
- Spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul
The details of the call this week between State lawmakers and a top aide to the Governor indicate that he and his staff weakened the public trust during a pandemic – a time when distrust in our elected leaders and public-health officials can have deadly consequences. We State lawmakers must hold the Governor accountable for his office’s lack of transparency around the true human toll of his policy last year that returned COVID-infected patients to nursing homes.

That policy proved tragic for thousands of people and their families. The Governor and his staff owed it to them to face the full reality of that decision, to model courage and accountability, and to help us learn from our mistakes in this ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Last March, well before I was an Assembly member, the Governor was granted broad emergency authority. Since then, he has used that authority to unilaterally alter some 300 laws via more than 100 executive orders. Given what we know now, I will oppose any effort to extend or renew these expanded powers, which are slated to expire on April 30.

The surviving loved ones of those we lost deserved the full story here; instead, that truth was obscured by the administration. That simply cannot happen, not now, while the stakes are life and death, and not ever again.
- Assemblymember Bill Conrad (D - 140th District)
As our frontline doctors and nurses continue to work every day to save lives and prevent the spread of COVID-19, politics have no place in our recovery process. Throughout the pandemic, transparency and clear communication have been essential. The legislative branch cannot carry out its oversight responsibilities when vital information is withheld and requests for that information is ignored.

This pandemic is not over and we have more work to do. Just this week, the Senate Health Committee passed legislation I sponsor that would require the Department of the Health to publicly publish and regularly update a comprehensive vaccination plan, detailing efforts to achieve an equitable, accessible rollout. The people of New York deserve answers and they deserve action, which is I'm calling on the legislature to swiftly and unanimously pass this bill, so that we can deliver the accountability the public deserves. As a Conference, we are deliberating about the future of the Governor's emergency powers, and whatever decision is made will be in the best interest of New Yorkers.
State Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo)