Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) was offered $4 million to write a book about his pandemic leadership – after his disastrous nursing home policy led to the deaths of thousands of patients.
The New York Times reported that Cuomo had his aides seek the book deal while also having them edit a report that showed he wasn’t the hero of the pandemic, but actually the villain.
“An impending Health Department report threatened to disclose a far higher number of nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus than the Cuomo administration had previously made public. Ms. [Melissa] DeRosa and other top aides expressed concern about the higher death toll, and, after their intervention, the number — which had appeared in the second sentence of the report — was removed from the final version,” the Times reported. “The revisions occurred as the governor was on the brink of a huge payoff: a book deal that ended with a high offer of more than $4 million, according to people with knowledge of the book’s bidding process.”
A Times examination found that Cuomo’s book deal “overlapped with the move by his most senior aides to reshape a report about nursing home deaths in a way that insulated the governor from criticism and burnished his image.” It also overlapped with glowing coverage from the Times and other media outlets.
Another of Cuomo’s top aides, Stephanie Benton, was directed to ask assistants to prints portions of the manuscript’s draft and bring them to the governor’s mansion. On one occasion, the request came on the same day that DeRosa gathered other top advisers to discuss the Health Department draft report that could crush the governor’s image.
Cuomo’s book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” portrayed him as a hero despite New York seeing more deaths than all but one other state (California). The Times also reported that Cuomo’s use of his aides to write and edit the book may run “afoul of state laws prohibiting use of public resources for personal gain.” The staffers used their personal email accounts to discuss the book, rather than their official government accounts.
One anonymous staffer, who feared retaliation for speaking out, told the Times she and others were asked to help type the book or transfer Cuomo’s notes, which he sometimes composed by dictating into his cellphone.
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, told the Times that there was “no connection between the [health department] report and this outside project, period,” adding that, “any suggestion otherwise is just wrong.”
Azzopardi also told the outlet that Cuomo’s top aides “volunteered on this project” using their free time, which he said was “permissible and consistent with ethical requirements” of New York.
DeRosa was heavily involved in Cuomo’s book and getting the Health Department to revise its report, which essentially cleared Cuomo and his administration of any fault relating to nursing home deaths – policies which are now under investigation by the FBI.
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