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Report: Cuomo aides assisted with book deal while working to handle nursing home death report

Virus Outbreak New York
Posted at 3:05 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 15:05:32-04

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — According to a report from the New York Times, aides and staffers assisted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with his book deal while working to handle the nursing home death report.

Crown Publishing announced in August 2020 Cuomo would publish American Crisis, a behind-the-scenes account of the governor's experience as New York's governor during the pandemic. The book was released in October 2020 and according to a report from the Times on March 9, Crown has no plans to reprint or reissue the book and cited the investigation into the state's handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

The Times says Cuomo's top aide, Melissa DeRosa, was someone who assisted with his book deal, "she attended video meetings with publishers, and helped him edit early drafts of the book."

According to The Times, its examination revealed how the book deal overlapped with the nursing home report.

"A New York Times examination of the development of Mr. Cuomo’s lucrative book deal revealed how it overlapped with the move by his most senior aides to reshape a report about nursing home deaths in a way that insulated the governor from criticism and burnished his image."

Another top aide, Stephanie Benton, was named in the report. The Times said Benton asked assistants to print portions of the draft of the book and deliver them to Cuomo at the Executive Mansion in Albany.

"One of Ms. Benton’s directives came on June 27, the same day that Ms. DeRosa convened an impromptu teleconference with several other top advisers to discuss the Health Department draft report."

The Times says Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, denied any link between the book and the nursing home death report. Azzopardi is quoted in the report saying DeRosa and Benton “volunteered on this project” during their free time and added it was “permissible and consistent with ethical requirements” of the state.

According to The Times, trusted aides and junior staffers assisted with everything from full-scale edits to minor clerical work.

Assemblymember Monica Wallace (D - 143rd District) release the following statement on the report Thursday:

I am deeply troubled by reports alleging that government staff and resources were used to facilitate publication of the Governor’s private book deal. I’ve already reached out to the Chair of the Judiciary Committee and been assured that our Assembly impeachment investigation will encompass these allegations.
- Assemblymember Wallace

Cuomo has come under fire recently for the state's handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes as well as several allegations of inappropriate conduct. Multiple state elected leaders have called for Cuomo to resign or step aside, he has addressed the allegations and calls for his resignation saying he will not resign. Speaker Carl Heastie announced March 17 the Assembly retained the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to lead an impeachment investigation into allegations against the governor.