New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) blasted “bullying” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) after a lawmaker said the governor threatened him for criticizing his handling of the nursing home scandal.
Appearing on Thursday morning ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC, De Blasio, who has had his share of public imbroglios with the governor, weighed in on Cuomo’s alleged threats to “destroy” Assemblyman Ron Kim if he didn’t change a public statement to defend his administration handling of his controversial nursing home COVID death data scandal. Host Mika Brzezinski asked the mayor if he had ever heard Cuomo make similar alleged threats to anyone.
“It’s a sad thing to say, Mika, but that’s classic Andrew Cuomo. A lot of people in New York state have received those phone calls. The bullying is nothing new,” de Blasio said.
“I believe Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad. No public servant, no person who is telling the truth, should be treated that way,” de Blasio added. “The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment — many, many times I’ve heard that and I know a lot of other people in the state that have heard that.”
When asked about the recent news that the FBI and U.S. Attorney Office in Brooklyn have launched a preliminary investigation, de Blasio called it “unquestionably” necessary because “the truth has not come out yet, and we need it.”
“The notion that information was held back for political convenience instead of the blunt truth coming out so we could save lives, something is profoundly wrong there,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio called Kim “a good public servant” and “a person of integrity,” stating that nothing about the Assemblyman feud with Cuomo is surprising.
“It’s just the script is exactly what a lot of us have heard before,” the mayor said. “It’s not a surprise, it’s sad. It’s not the way people should be treated, and a lot of people get intimidated by that. I give him credit for not being intimidated.”
Kim also appeared on Morning Joe before de Blasio and told his accounts of the phone call he had with Cuomo had previously called him at night, while home with his family — ripping into him for 10 minutes and threatening to end his career for crossing him.
“For 10 minutes, he berated me, he yelled at me, he told me my career would be over. He’s been biting his tongue for months against me, and I had tonight — not tomorrow, tonight to issue a new statement essentially asking me to lie,” Kim said on Morning Joe. “[Basically], I heard and I saw a crime, and he’s asking me [to say] that I did not see that crime. That’s a line that he crossed that cannot be undone, and that’s why I had no choice but to come out and speak up.”
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi accused Kim of “lying about his conversation” with the governor, denying that threats to “destroy” the Assemblyman were ever made.
“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night. I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred,” Azzopardi said in an 800-word statement Wednesday. “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration. We did ask for Mr. Kim to do the honorable thing and put out a truthful statement after he told the Governor he was misquoted in a news article, which he said he tried to correct but the reporter refused. Kim said he would correct the story and then broke his word. No surprise.”
“Mr. Kim and the Governor’s office have had a long, hostile relationship,” Azzopardi added. “To be clear, neither the Governor nor his aides threatened any legislators and in fact, the meeting in question was considered positive by those who attended. It is the distortions of the meeting by those with different agendas that we object to.”
During his daily press conference later on Thursday, de Blasio reiterated his support for Kim and noted that he has also been on the receiving end of tough conversations with the Governor.
“Many times,” de Blasio said. “I believe Ron Kim … I believe him and he did not deserve to be treated that way and I admire him for coming forward and telling exactly what happened.”
He added that Cuomo’s treatment of Kim, whose uncle died of COVID in a nursing home, was “not acceptable.”
“Ron Kim was trying to raise real concerns and honest concerns on behalf of families in this city, in this state, who have lost loved ones — and that deserves respect and he wasn’t given respect,” de Blasio said.
The mayor also called for further investigation of the nursing home scandal, joining a chorus of anti-Cuomo Democrats and New York Republicans in slamming the Democratic governor for the cover-up since the call from his top-aide revealed they hid the damning data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths across the state out of “fear” of being investigated by Trump’s Department of Justice.
A group of 14 Democratic senators are calling on state lawmakers to strip Cuomo’s emergency powers which expires in April, while Republicans, both state and national are calling for him to resign or be impeached.
The shock revelation came just two weeks after New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office released a damning report that the Cuomo administration had undercounted the number of nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent forcing officials to admit the true death toll was 12,743, rather than the 8,711 it previously claimed.
“There clearly needs to be a full investigation. We’re talking about thousands of people who were lost. Our seniors, our elders, people who don’t know the truth,” de Blasio told reporters.