Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gained a national platform in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to his widely heralded daily briefings and ‘follow the science’ sentiment.
The so-called ‘Love Gov’ was forced to resign from office in August 2021 because of mounting sexual assault allegations, but it was not before he implemented some of the strictest COVID-related policies in the nation. More than three years after the start of the pandemic, however, Cuomo now appears to be rewriting history. During a recent episode of his As a Matter of Fact podcast, he suggested his lockdown and mask mandates were merely suggestions.
On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by Emily Jashinsky, culture editor at The Federalist, and Matt Welch, co-host of The Fifth Column, to separate fact from fiction when it came to COVID policy in the state of New York.
‘It Was All Voluntary’
Last week, Cuomo was interviewing Leana Wen, MD, about COVID-19 and future of pandemic preparedness when he seemingly sought to reframe his own decisions as governor:
Cuomo: Government had no capacity to enforce any of this. ‘You must wear a mask.’ And people wore masks in New York. But if they said, ‘I’m not wearing a mask,’ there was nothing I could do about it. ‘You must close your private business.’ ‘I won’t.’ Well, there was nothing I could really do about it. It was really all voluntary. And it was extraordinary, when you think about it, that society acted with that uniformity, voluntarily.
The fact of the matter is, from March 2020 through much of 2021, New York State had strict guidelines surrounding capacity restrictions, social distancing, vaccine requirements, and mask mandates. And then there was Cuomo’s ill-fated nursing home policy that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. “He issued an order on March 25, 2020, that all New York State nursing homes must accept residents that are medically stable and it stated, ‘No resident shall be denied readmission or admission to nursing homes because they tested positive or were suspected to have COVID,'” Megyn explained.
It was because of this order that Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean lost both of her in-laws and she became a vocal critic of Cuomo. “It led to some 10 to 15,000 deaths of the most vulnerable elderly populations inside these nursing homes,” Megyn noted. “And he then went on to lie about the number who died because he knew he had blood on his hands and didn’t want the responsibility.”
The consequences of Cuomo’s mandates may not all have been deadly, but they did adversely affect people’s lives and businesses. Megyn told the story of a friend who was forced to shutter her dance studio as a result of COVID restrictions. There was confusion over whether or not the studios should be classified as gyms, which led to different applications of the policy. “What would happen, Andrew Cuomo, if anybody tried to defy your executive orders was the sheriff would show up,” Megyn said. “People were not free to disregard your vaccine, mask, business, or school closure mandates. They had to comply.”
Welch shared that his own family was impacted by the ongoing school closures in New York. “Everyone was [initially] really interested in what he had to say; he was calming and soothing and portrayed as sort of the the anti-Trump… [who said] ‘We’re always going to follow the science,'” Welch recalled. “But in August of 2021, he was warning that if we open up public schools again that they might become a super spreader event… It’s ridiculous.”
That is why Megyn was skeptical of Cuomo’s claims that people acted with “uniformity” when it came to COVID mandates. “It was not some miraculous hand holding, let’s unify and bow down to the Dear Leader in Albany moment,” she said. “The nerve [he has] to suggest otherwise on camera and on the record.”
Cuomo secured a $5 million book deal at the height of the pandemic to write about his leadership, and Jashinsky was willing to bet his latest claims about his COVID policies are at odds with what he wrote. In her view, the media is to blame. “I am fascinated by how what he’s saying now is probably in conflict with his own book,” she said. “He is telling the story and, again, they will let him get away with it.”
His nursing home order was, in her words, “one of the clearest cut examples from the pandemic of a policy… leading to deaths,” but it continues to go un- or under-reported. “Does a governor get away with having a policy that is actually having life and death consequences for as long as he did without a complicit and incompetent and ideologically compromised media,” Jashinsky asked. “Absolutely not.”
While Jashinsky believes Cuomo will get away with his revisionist history in the media, the court of public opinion is a different animal. “The bigger conversation is that Andrew Cuomo shouldn’t be able to show his face and polite society without apologizing and explaining why his voice still is relevant and legitimate,” she said. “Why should we trust you or care what you say unless you are groveling and saying what you did wrong?”
While the pandemic may be over, Megyn said the postmortem has only just begun. “I’m sorry, I realize COVID is over,” she concluded. “But accountability is important and calling out these lies is important.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Johnson and Welch by tuning in to episode 636 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.