'He tried to humiliate me': Gov. Cuomo allegedly threatened to 'destroy' a lawmaker

'He tried to humiliate me': Gov. Cuomo allegedly threatened to 'destroy' a lawmaker
Gov. Andrew Cuomo // Diana Robinson / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

In New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been drawing widespread criticism — even within his own party — over reports that his administration covered up the full severity of deaths in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. And Democratic New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, CNN reports, is alleging that Cuomo threatened to "destroy" him if he didn't cover up for the governor's chief of staff and adviser, Melissa DeRosa.

DeRosa sparked outrage at the Cuomo administration after admitting in a private conversation that they held back information about nursing home deaths for fear of federal scrutiny.

Kim, who represents Queens, told CNN, "Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career if I did not cover up for Melissa…. He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience." Cuomo, Kim alleges, told him that "' 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."

DeRosa, however, has denied that Cuomo made such a threat.

CNN reporters M.J. Lee and Mark Morales report, "DeRosa is a top aide to the governor who came under fire last week after she told state lawmakers, in a private virtual meeting, that the state had delayed sharing with the legislature the full scope of the COVID-related death toll of New York's nursing home residents because of concerns about a potential federal investigation by the Department of Justice."

Kim, discussing his phone conversation with Gov. Cuomo — who is the brother CNN's Chris Cuomo and a son of the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo — told CNN, "No man has ever spoken to me like that in my entire life. At some point, he tried to humiliate me, asking: 'Are you a lawyer? I didn't think so. You're not a lawyer.' It almost felt like in retrospect, he was trying to bait me and anger me (to) say something inappropriate. I'm glad I didn't."

In response to Lee and Morales' reporting, civil rights attorney Joel Wertheimer — who served as Cuomo's staff secretary after formerly serving in the Obama White House — tweeted:

Kim has issued a scathing statement on Gov. Cuomo's handling of the nursing home crisis:

According to Lee and Morales, Kim "is not the only lawmaker to have received fierce pushback and even threats from Cuomo and his top aides since last week, according to three additional Democratic New York lawmakers. All spoke to CNN under the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of retribution from the governor. They said the administration had aggressively lobbied legislators to speak up in support of his handling of the nursing homes-related deaths, and that threats were made against those who are considering a vote to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers."

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