Imagine if former governor Andrew Cuomo had been as concerned with the safety of nursing home patients during the pandemic as he was with cranking out his crappy memoir. Perhaps more people would be seeing their grandparents this Thanksgiving.
Alas, the Luv Guv had his eyes on a $5.1 million prize and therefore he had to quit, or at least check out of, his day job.
Cuomo was not the only governor who mishandled the response to the pandemic — but his fall from grace was definitely the most captivating. After all, the media fawned over Cuomo. The talking heads drooled over his leather bomber jacket, his tough talk, his no nonsense press conferences and his possible nipple ring. Marie Claire dubbed him “America’s boyfriend” while Chelsea Handler wrote him a love letter. The Kennedy Center honored him with their award for “Inspired Leadership.” Naturally Cuomo decided to cash in on his newfound fame. The praise was not deserved, but it was profitable.
Earlier this week the New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee released a report that looked into more than just Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations. The investigation revealed important findings about the ethical concerns regarding his memoir.
The timing of the book’s release was head-scratching to begin with: it hit shelves on October 13, 2020. The country had yet to even enter the second wave of the coronavirus and the egomaniac governor was already taking a victory lap.
But like all things involving Gotham’s super villain, it somehow gets even worse. It turns out that Cuomo’s literary agent was discussing a potential book deal in March 2020. That’s right. Three days before the Luv Guv’s emergency mandate shut down “non-essential” businesses, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic was already in the works.
Cuomo also did not abide by a specific agreement with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that said, “No State property, personnel or other resources may be utilized for activities associated with the book.” If Cuomo read that stipulation, he most certainly did not think it actually applied to him. What was he expected to do? Multitask handling a pandemic and writing a manuscript all by himself?!
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top staffer, wound up sending or receiving a thousand emails related to her boss’s future flop. At a time when his staff should have been focused on helping him lead the state of New York through a crisis, his underlings were moonlighting as editors. And boy did they have their work cut out for them.
While some editors have to fix sentence structure or a rogue comma, Camp Cuomo was tasked with rewriting history. The governor’s henchmen knew that the real number of nursing home fatalities would be tough to spin. Luckily, at this time the Department of Health’s report had not been officially released. In fact, it was being drafted around the same time that Penguin Random House began talks with Cuomo’s agent about a potential book. In other words, there was still time to fudge the numbers and save the book deal.
According to the Judiciary Committee’s report, “A debate arose regarding whether to include a figure that included all deaths of nursing home facility residents (approximately 10,000 deaths), or a lower figure that included only deaths that occurred within nursing home facilities (approximately 6,500 deaths).” They decided to go with the lower number, go figure. Later when the manuscript was put together, a senior official noted that the section of the book on nursing homes was “critically important.”
Andrew Cuomo’s lawyers are still claiming his underlings had “voluntarily” helped him with his lucrative side gig. However, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics cited misuse of staffers when revoking a prior approval of Cuomo’s book contract. Considering what we know about how Cuomo treated his staff, it stands to reason that these state employees wouldn’t have felt comfortable telling their boss they didn’t want to “help” with his extra credit assignment. While some of the state employees may have felt pressured into working on the book, others may have seen editing this work of fiction as less of a burden and more of a passion project. It certainly was for Melissa DeRosa. A trooper purportedly saw her and Cuomo “making out on the sidewalk like high schoolers” last year.
Between harassing women, writing a self-aggrandizing book, doing comedy routines with his brother on CNN and winning Emmy awards, it makes sense that Cuomo had to put New Yorkers’ health and safety on the back-burner. His plate was full and something had to give — and it was not going to be his $5.1 million pay check.