Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi on Wednesday praised disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suozzi was referring to the same Cuomo who used staff and other government resources to net a $5.1 million pandemic book deal; fueled fatalities in nursing homes by ordering COVID-19 stricken patients back into them; and then hid the true death toll numbers from the public.
“He did accomplish a tremendous amount,” Suozzi said of Cuomo during his first policy press conference since announcing his bid for governor.
“He’s got his flaws. He’s got problems. He’s got very serious allegations about his conduct, which should be very concerning to all of us,” Suozzi said in a broad understatement of the impeachable offenses, including sex harassment allegations leveled by 11 women, many of whom were staffers, which forced Cuomo from office.
“But you can’t take away from the fact that during COVID he was there every single day laying out a comprehensive plan and coordinating the state on these issues,” Suozzi claimed. “I do think he accomplished a lot of good things for the state.”
Suozzi’s embrace of Cuomo drew criticism from nursing home advocates who said the Long Island congressman is overlooking the exiled governor’s pandemic scandals — including hiding the true extent of nursing home deaths from COVID-19 while he negotiated a $5.1 million book deal on the pandemic.
An impeachment report prepared by investigators with the state Assembly Judiciary Committee found that Cuomo improperly used government staffers and other resources to prepare his COVID “Leadership” book.
The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics recently revoked its prior approval of the Cuomo memoir after concluding he violated an agreement not to use government resources to prepare it.
Cuomo also pushed through a law that granted hospitals and nursing home immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits during the early months of the pandemic last year and imposed a policy that forced nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients, which critics and even researchers said caused more unnecessary deaths of the frail elderly.
“We don’t want Suozzi as governor if Cuomo’s handling of COVID is his idea of success. It’s a shame that anyone would consider Cuomo a success,” said Vivian Zayas, co-founder of VoicesForSeniors.
“Cuomo hid nursing home deaths to promote his book and try to show he was `America’ governor.’”
Suozzi even discussed replicating a “micro-cluster” strategy — something implemented by Cuomo — to devote more attention to hot zones with higher infection rates.
“You need to have different ratings for different places based on facts on the ground,” he said.
Cuomo resigned in August under the threat of impeachment after a devastating investigative report prepared by state Attorney General Letitia James’ office found he mistreated 11 women, including harassing staffers and a state trooper.
Suozzi said he could exert strong state leadership without being a micromanager.
James also is a Democratic candidate for governor, along with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Cuomo’s replacement, Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Some observers believe Suozzo’s trumpeting of Cuomo is part of a political strategy to appeal to moderate voters.
“This is politically driven. The congressman is trying to appeal to the Cuomo loyalists in the electorate,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), of the earliest critics of the ex-governor’s handling of the pandemic.
“It’s a huge risk. The congressman is misrepresenting the record of Andrew Cuomo, who was monetizing a $5 million book deal off the backs of dead people and misusing government resources to do it,” said Kim, chairman of the Assembly Committee on the Aging.
During his press briefing, Suozzi said Hochul, a Buffalo native, hasn’t done enough to control the raging 10 percent COVID positivity rate on her turf in Western New York. The Post reported that upstate communities — particularly the Buffalo region — have the highest COVID-19 infection rates and lowest vaccination rates in New York.
He criticized Hochul’s “piecemeal” approach to combating COVID-19 and suggested that the Democratic incumbent and rival — who took over the governorship upon Cuomo’s forced departure — was preoccupied with campaign fundraising.
“I don’t believe there is a comprehensive plan in place,” Suozzi said. “It has to be a coordinated every day focus.”
Team Hochul dismissed Suozzi’s criticism.
“Since day one, Governor Hochul has led aggressive efforts to combat COVID-19, including enforcing a nation-leading health care worker mandate, statewide vaccine pop-up sites and ad campaigns to encourage vaccinations, incentives for the vaccine hesitant, and staying in constant communication with local partners to provide support on the ground,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays.
“Under the Governor’s leadership, we have achieved one of the top vaccination rates in the nation.”
Hochul was scheduled to meet with the New York congressional delegation in D.C. later Wednesday, where she planned to discuss her COVID-19 containment plan, her rep said.