by Ben Sixsmith
Tuesday, 24
November 2020
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15:09

Andrew Cuomo is not a hero of this pandemic

The governor has successfully whitewashed his Covid performance
by Ben Sixsmith
Andrew Cuomo has successfully marked his failures all year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In his book Simulacra and Simulation, the French theorist Jean Baudrillard explored the means by which the media creates alternate realities. Consider, for example, that many Americans believe that Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, is a hero of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisers of the 2020 Emmys think so. Cuomo has been awarded an Emmy:

…in recognition of his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world.
- The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

No doubt, Cuomo’s televised briefings exuded calm. It would be churlish to deny that many people profited from them. But it is also worth asking about Cuomo’s record off-screen.

The appearance of success is something Cuomo has assiduously cultivated. In his speech to the Democratic National Convention, Cuomo said: “We climbed the impossible mountain, and right now we are on the other side.” Three months later, cases are spiking again, schools are shutting down and bars, restaurants and gyms are facing strict curfews. Somehow, between March and October, Cuomo found the time to write a book, American Crisis, about his own bold and tireless leadership during the ongoing pandemic. This critic asked, how in God’s name did he have the time?

Cuomo was not alone in whitewashing his performance. His younger brother, conveniently, hosts a news programme on CNN and Cuomo could depend on being treated with what might be called “our kid’s gloves”. Journalists fixated on sick-making trivialities like a trend, which should have lived and died on Twitter, for liberals calling themselves “Cuomosexuals”.

But there were a few dissenters. David Graham of the Atlantic has pointed out that it is “evident that the perception of Andrew Cuomo’s competence and the reality of his performance are at odds.” Cuomo spent the first weeks of March telling New Yorkers that despite fears regarding Covid-19, “reality [was] reassuring” and they could continue to live as normal. Once the crisis truly struck, he was responsible for the disastrous decision to mandate that nursing homes not be allowed to discriminate between Covid-negative and Covid-positive patients. As Joe Sexton of ProPublica points out, Cuomo has still not announced how many New Yorkers died in nursing homes.

Cuomo was not alone in making these mistakes, of course. Many politicians and public health organisations downplayed the risks of Covid-19, including people and bodies with more knowledge and authority, such as the President of the United States and the World Health Organisation. Nor was Cuomo was alone in underestimating the threat that the pandemic posed to care homes, as British readers must be painfully aware.

With that said, nobody is suggesting that Donald Trump or Boris Johnson are heroes of 2020. Cuomo might not have been exceptionally incompetent but his sanctification implies that he has been exceptionally successful. This is an implication that depends not on his actual record but his smooth PR skills — and the talent of the media for creating emotional satisfying, if largely fictitious, realities.

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Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
1 year ago

A similar phenomenon exists here in Scotland. Every other day I see people thanking god we had Nicola Sturgeon leading the fight instead of the clownish Boris Johnson. Despite the fact Scotland and England have negligible difference in cases and deaths (Glasgow’s numbers are as bad as anywhere), both made serious blunders with care homes, and both have had essentially identical lockdown measures. It would seem that if someone already likes a politician they’ll willfully ignore any evidence to challenge the view. Quite why Sturgeon enjoys the popularity she does is a mystery to me, but the pre-existing goodwill has apparently shielded her from criticism.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

Quite why Sturgeon enjoys the popularity she does is a mystery to me

Me to

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago

And me

Micheal Thompson
Micheal Thompson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

She is popular because she is not Boris Johnson – or Alex Salmond.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Not a hero? That’s an understatement if ever there was one. He is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands in care homes, having allowed patients with Covid to be placed in those homes. Why did he allow this? Because he had granted immunity from prosecution to the owners of the care homes after they gave him substantial campaign donations. Pure corruption.

Francis L
Francis L
1 year ago

Since New York as a state has, even now, a far worse coronavirus death rate per pop than any European country and any other US state with the exception of the equally incompetent and authoritarian New Jersey, I assume this award is for a “fictional “series.
One wonders who advises the Emmy committee and who might even have recommended Cuomo.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
1 year ago

The fact that this article had to even be written is a testament to how deeply partisan our media has become.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

But he’s getting an Emmy, albeit for his performance on tv, not as governor. And Cuomo may not have been “exceptionally incompetent,” but he was sufficiently incompetent in putting infected people into nursing homes.

Adrian
Adrian
1 year ago

If by “cases spiking” they mean “a tiny bump in cases” then yes, cases are spiking.
There has been a tiny rise in deaths in NY which has come and gone.
They are closing stuff down in a panic, having suffered the second worst record of the US states.
They have alnost reached 0.2% mortality, so for them the war is over. Yet this guy is too incompetent to realise that.

alex bachel
alex bachel
1 year ago

I don’t think that you can single out CNN as the sole news organization praising Cuomo, there are many others. This treatment of Cuomo just makes me believe that all awards are nonsensical.

Vem Dalen
Vem Dalen
1 year ago

This is not really an exhaustive list of failure. Accepting that the care home policy was wrong, it would be useful to know what else would add to the argument. I’m not the slightest bit interested in beatifying Cuomo but this is a lightweight reaction.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
1 year ago
Reply to  Vem Dalen

Well, there’s also Cuomo’s disgraceful statement that he wouldn’t accept the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and New York state would be doing its own evaluation of it. His churlish criticism of Trump on vaccines, speaking of a Pearl Harbour style failure, is simply an embarassment now that doses will start to be administered to Americans in the first half of next month, a swift rollout that Trump’s Operation Warp Speed made possible. Also there are pictures of him maskless in the kind of groups where he preaches one should wear a mask. Just how long a list of fails do you need to conclude the man doesn’t deserve to get an Emmy award for his COVID broadcasts?

Vem Dalen
Vem Dalen
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

“how long a list of fails do you need”
If it’s relevant, it should have been in the article. My point was that this written piece was very light on evidence.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
1 year ago

I don’t follow US media so I wondered how Cuomo was treated. It’s true that the majority of deaths were in NYC – so he could have blamed the city’s mayor for that I suppose. But even in the rest of the state more died than anywhere else in the US I think.

Of course compared to Trump he couldn’t fare as badly with public perception. I guess that’s because Trump is an optimist – much like our own leader. More sober types like Merkel and Sturgeon seem to have come out with a better PR. So i suppose the lesson is we want sunny optimists for the good times, and dour puritans for the bad!