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EDITORIAL: Cuomo's flaw wasn't the nursing home order, it was his defense of it

EDITORIAL: Cuomo's flaw wasn't the nursing home order, it was his defense of it

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Listening to Cuomo

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa listens as Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference, in New York in 2018.

In the context last spring of a fatal, out-of-control pandemic, it’s stunning to hear that the Cuomo administration delayed the release of data from nursing homes and covered it up because of fears it would hurt Cuomo politically.

This is as clear a case of political hubris as you will see. Gov. Andrew Cuomo drew deserved praise for his handling of the horrible COVID-19 outbreak in New York City — the long, numbers-heavy public presentations, the emphasis on safety and science.

But he let the plaudits go to his head. Some of his reaction was foolish but harmless — writing a book, going on his brother Chris’ show on CNN, releasing pandemic posters he had helped design — but, inevitably, he made mistakes, and his practice of never apologizing but always defending his actions has magnified this mistake.

Cuomo could be forgiven for the original order, at the height of the crisis, requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive overflow patients from hospitals. In retrospect, the state had other, better options and at the least could have taken more care that transferred patients could be segregated from the general nursing home population.

Despite complaints, the Cuomo team kept the order in place for six weeks; then, after rescinding it, took a defensive stance. The state’s practice of counting hospital deaths separately from nursing home deaths made it appear state officials were trying to skew the data.

It looked like a cover-up, and, as with many scandals, the initial offense was an unfortunate but forgivable error in judgment, but the clumsy attempt to evade responsibility was shameful and infuriating.

A Cuomo aide, Melissa DeRosa, recently told other Democratic politicians on a Zoom call the administration had withheld the data out of fear it would be used in an investigation by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice. We’ve rarely heard a more unconvincing excuse.

The Cuomo administration was trying to avoid the transparent release of figures that made Andrew Cuomo look bad. His determination to control the narrative — micromanaging information released by his administration — predates the pandemic and has been a hallmark of his tenure as governor.

Some of Cuomo’s harshest critics — like Congresswoman Elise Stefanik — are calling for a federal investigation. We don’t see why that is necessary, since Attorney General Letitia James is investigating and has done an outstanding job of holding the Cuomo administration to account.

Stefanik has no credibility to call for any political investigation in New York, since she told lies about the federal election, undermining Americans’ faith in our electoral process in the lead-up to the Capitol insurrection. When she apologizes for her role in that campaign of lies and calls for Donald Trump to be held accountable for leading it, then she can talk about failings in New York.

New Yorkers deserve better from Cuomo. Doing his best involves not only leading the state in the fight against COVID-19 but telling the full, unvarnished truth about it. It is past time for him to give up the emergency powers he assumed last spring and past time, too, for him to apologize. It’s never too late for honesty and contrition, and that is what we need from our governor now.

Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.

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