New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday continued playing a game of duck and cover, yet again shutting out reporters from a purported news conference as his sexual harassment and nursing home scandals grow.
Cuomo instead spent a half hour touting supposed good news about Covid infection rates in New York and the imminent return of baseball to New York City with some fans in stadiums, at an event closed to the press and broadcast over Zoom.
Despite barring reporters from the event on the pretext of Covid concerns, Cuomo was — again — surrounded by non-journalists who said nice things about him and pointedly avoided mentioning allegations that he kissed and groped women without their permission.
Cuomo did not take any called in questions from reporters, who were certain to ask him about allegations that he sexually harassed or acted inappropriately toward more than a half dozen women, that he has presided over an office riven with bullying and fear and that his administration for months covered up data on Covid deaths in nursing home residents.
The Democratic governor was blasted by reporters on Twitter even before his news conference ended for avoiding any questions about the allegations that have consumed the Empire State in recent weeks.
“Cuomo’s presser is blatant propaganda with a bunch of old baseball players and others talking about what a great job he has done with the pandemic … yet, Cuomo won’t let reporters ask questions about these big public health rule changes he just announced …big change from 2020,” wrote Zach Williams, who covers the state capitol for City & State NY.
Bloomberg opinion writer Robert George tweeted, “Cuomo hiding behind sports teams (“Fans — a few, anyway — will be back in the stadiums!”) to duck talking to the press.”
And New York Post political reporter Bernadette Hogan tweeted, “@NYGovCuomo during a closed press event in Manhattan is accompanied today by his daughter Michaela, Yankees president Randy Levine, Mets Vice Chairman Andy Cohen & players CC Sabathia & Al Leiter.”
Business Insider politics reporter Jake Lahut wrote, “This is gonna get memed into oblivion with calls for Cuomo to resign,” referring to a graphic shown during the event that contained the words “Reopen, Rebuild, Relauch, Reunite” and other “Re”-related alliteratives.
Gothamist and WNYC reporter Jake Offenhartz, in a tweet a day earlier, quoted a Gothamist story which said, “Since February 24th, when the first woman alleged sexual harassment, reporters have been excluded from all of Cuomo’s public appearances.”
Cuomo faces multiple investigations into his conduct, even as he denies acting inappropriately toward any woman.
State Attorney General Letitia James is overseeing a probe of women’s allegations that is being conducted by a team of private lawyers.
The state Assembly Judiciary Committee on Wednesday said that it has retained a top Manhattan law firm to conduct an impeachment investigation of Cuomo.
Albany police have been referred an allegation by a current Cuomo aide that he aggressively groped her in the governor’s mansion last year.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating the withholding of Covid death data by Cuomo aides.
Despite the probes, and despite calls by leading Democratic lawmakers that he resign, Cuomo has repeatedly refused to quit.
At his event Thursday, a grinning Cuomo tried to paint a picture of optimism as he detailed coronavirus infection rates.
“We’re getting through Covid, and we’re going to be the better for it, and the smarter for it, and the more united for it, and our success through Covid and what we did as a community in this state, coming together, is going to make our connections stronger and our fabric of community stronger,” Cuomo said.
“Spring is here. It is time to rise up, and it is time for the Mets and the Yankees to bring home a championship this year!” Cuomo said.
Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center, questioned Cuomo’s spin on the Covid statistics.
“Cuomo is saying it’s safe to reopen and go to ballgames because New York’s pandemic numbers are looking so good,” tweeted Hammond.
“That’s not how it looks to me. New York’s infection rate is the second-highest in the country, behind only New Jersey — and it has been flat for the past month.”
A day earlier, Cuomo cut short the question-and-answer period of a conference call after allowing fewer than half dozen reporters to ask questions, nearly all related to the scandals.
Cuomo during that call had announced he would not take any questions about the allegations against him. He reiterated an argument that investigations into his conduct are ongoing, and that he did not want to defend himself in the media.
But the governor did respond when asked about President Joe Biden’s recent remarks that, if the investigation confirms the accusers’ allegations, Cuomo should resign.
Biden had added: “I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too.”
Cuomo said Biden was merely expressing his support for an investigation, rather than a rush to judgment. “I agree with him on that,” Cuomo said.
On Wednesday, Cuomo traveled to Harlem, where he received a shot of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid vaccine and was surrounded by political and community leaders who praised and defended him.
“Back off, until you’ve got some facts,” former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y said.
Rangel, who represented a Harlem district for decades, was found guilty by the House Ethics Committee in 2010 of nearly a dozen ethics charges after an investigation of his personal finances.
On Monday, Cuomo held an event in Long Island, where he received another round of effusive praise from attendees, while barring any reporters from attending.
CBS 6 reporter Greg Floyd tweeted a photo of Monday’s event, noting that “The office of @NYGovCuomo tells me all these supporters standing virtually shoulder to shoulder behind Cuomo on Monday were rapid tested prior to the event.”
“No media allowed. I asked why couldn’t reporters also be rapid tested and allowed in – I haven’t received an answer,” Floyd wrote.