Democratic New York state Assemblyman Ron Kim said Wednesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to “destroy” his career if he did not stand in support of the administration as it faces backlash over its treatment of COVID-19 positive nursing home patients and the reporting of nursing home deaths.
Mr. Kim told CNN he received a call from the Democratic governor last week while he was giving his children a bath.
“Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said,” Mr. Kim recalled. “He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience.”
Mr. Cuomo said “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,” according to Mr. Kim.
“No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life,” Mr. Kim said.
Ms. DeRosa is a top aide to the governor who admitted last week during a private virtual meeting with state lawmakers, including Mr. Kim, that the administration purposely withheld the state’s COVID-19 nursing home death toll out of fears it could be used against them politically.
Mr. Cuomo said Monday did not hide COVID-19 nursing home deaths but was guilty of creating an informational “void” that was filled by “conspiracy theories” after delaying the state Legislature’s request for nursing home data to prioritize an August request from the Justice Department.
Mr. Kim said that during the meeting with Ms. DeRosa, he called on the governor to apologize to family members of those who died in assisted living facilities. The angry phone call from the governor came hours after Ms. DeRosa’s comments were first reported by the New York Post.
Mr. Cuomo’s senior adviser denied that the governor threatened to destroy Mr. Kim.
“Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false,” Rich Azzopardi told CNN.
“The governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics,’” Mr. Azzopardi said.
According to CNN, Mr. Kim’s wife said she had “overheard parts of Kim’s phone call with Cuomo last week, and described the governor as ‘loud’ and ‘angry.’ She said she heard Cuomo say, ‘Who do you think you are?’ as well as the words, ‘my wrath,’ and that immediately after the phone call, her husband told her: ‘The governor threatened to destroy my life.’”
CNN said it spoke with three additional Democratic New York lawmakers who said they were similarly threatened by the governor.
All three legislators, who asked to remain anonymous because they were afraid of retribution from the governor, said they were “aware of outreach from the governor in which he clearly suggested or explicitly threatened political retaliation if they did not stand by him,” CNN reported.
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