March 5, 2021 - 5:30pm

Perhaps the appeal of Andrew Cuomo was that for liberals he was the anti-Trump. Whereas the president seemed rash, chaotic and uncaring, the governor of New York exuded a sense of competent authority. His Covid briefings were so popular among liberal Americans that he was awarded an Emmy. “With all of this adulation that you’re getting for doing your job, are you thinking about running for President?” asked CNN presenter Chris Cuomo, who, conveniently, is his brother. No, said Cuomo, prompting howls of disappointment from the media.

But a sense of competence is exactly that. It has become increasingly obvious that Cuomo’s assured, authoritative bearing obscured significant mismanagement and stonking egotism. Journalists who were once gushing “Cuomosexuals” are now belatedly, shamefacedly having second thoughts.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that Cuomo’s top advisers “pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of Covid-19 than the administration had acknowledged.” Earlier this year, in January, a report by the New York attorney general accused Cuomo’s administration of dramatically undercounting deaths from Covid-19. The attorney general suggested that the administration’s insistence that nursing homes must not refuse patients admission on the basis of their being infected with the virus may have increased the risk of harm.

It would be wrong to charge Cuomo with being some kind of devious master manipulator. The sad truth is that the talking head brigade were never conned as much as they conned themselves. Outliers like ProPublica were reporting on Cuomo’s dangerous policies last year, and Right-wing elevation of such reportage forced Cuomo to respond in his 2020 book American Crisis.

In that book, which Cuomo wrote while he was apparently guiding New York through the pandemic, the governor claimed:

New York State never demanded or directed that any nursing home accept a COVID-positive patient. The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidance was that a nursing home should continue to accept patients from hospitals where COVID-19 was present, and not discriminate against a COVID-positive person. The state followed the guidance, stating that nursing homes should not reject a patient “solely on the basis” of COVID status.
- Andrew Cuomo, American Crisis

Any idiot could see how disingenuous this was. To tell nursing homes not to reject patients on the basis of Covid status is to tell them that they must either accept such patients or accept no patients at all. Granted, it would be preposterous to place all of the blame for Covid deaths in nursing homes on Governor Cuomo. Nursing homes across the world have struggled during the pandemic because members of staff have introduced the virus. But there are compelling reasons to believe that Cuomo’s directive exacerbated the situation, and that his administration undercounted deaths. It is therefore shocking to see how few journalists were interested in asking obvious questions.

Cuomo is facing simultaneous allegations of sexual harassment. Journalists, sensing blood, have drummed up more trivial stories about Cuomo being Benny Hillishly flirtatious. Cuomo might have behaved poorly —and no doubt investigations will be undertaken to determine that — but I hope commentators and public officials will not focus on private indiscretions at the expense of political failures. The latter are more consequential, of course, but focusing on the former also gives journalists an excuse to darken their sunny assessments of Cuomo without self-reflection: blaming his decline on misconduct behind closed doors rather than policies any hack could have investigated.

Ben Sixsmith is an English writer living in Poland. He has written for Quillette, Areo, The Catholic Herald, The American Conservative and Arc Digital on a variety of topics including literature and politics.