Andrew Cuomo, the disgraced former governor of New York, caught a few big breaks this week. First, the Albany district attorney announced that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cuomo had broken the law when he groped an aide in 2020. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, apparently told Cuomo’s lawyers they had closed its investigation into how Cuomo handled COVID-19 in nursing homes.
The Albany announcement pointed to one sobering reality: Cuomo egregiously harassed women but won’t be held accountable in the court of law, in part because the burden of proof, in these cases, can be quite high. It’s also far easier for a district attorney to square up against a no-name defendant than the wealthy former governor, with high-powered attorneys prepared to duel it out at a trial. DA’s hate to lose.
The nursing home issue never attracted as much attention as Cuomo’s predatory behavior toward women and was ultimately not what drove him from office. But it was, in its own way, disturbing and destructive. In a bid to boost his own profile and possibly make himself look better in the pandemic memoir he published last year, Cuomo intentionally downplayed the deaths in nursing homes, creating bizarre criteria for counting them where infected residents who happened to die in hospitals weren’t accounted for at all.
Cuomo intentionally hid the true nursing home death toll from the public, roadblocking journalists, advocates, and state legislators who sought the truth throughout 2020. It was only in 2021, when Attorney General Letitia James released a report on her own probe into nursing homes, did the Cuomo administration immediately revise the number, pushing the death toll far higher.
What now? With the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office also declining to prosecute Cuomo for his sexual harassment, it appears there will be no legal accountability for the former governor. Perhaps more troubling, the State Assembly never bothered to impeach him after he left office, opening the door for a political comeback.
It will, of course, be exceedingly hard for Cuomo to return to office in the short term. James is running for reelection as attorney general, a post Cuomo once held, and Kathy Hochul is in a very strong position in the governor’s race. Cuomo’s greatest asset is the $18 million in campaign cash he’s still sitting on and the large number of blinkered liberals who still believe, based on the absurd media coverage he received in early 2020, he is the hero who saved New York during the pandemic’s first wave.
This is entirely untrue but it’s a myth too many voters believe, even after New York — despite the many waves of coronavirus that have battered states everywhere — has boasted among the highest coronavirus death rates and raw death totals in America. Cuomo downplayed the pandemic in its earliest stage, ignored calls for an early shutdown order, and politicized the state’s response to a startling degree. Even New York’s vaccine rollout, in the initial stages, was halting.
This will be the Cuomo legacy as his fanboys recede from view. The state was mismanaged for a decade, rife with corruption and inefficiencies. Real estate developers, landlords, and financiers had the run of the government. Behind the scenes, Cuomo was a vicious boss, verbally and physically harassing young women, breeding a culture of fear and abuse. For years, he could get away with it because he held so much power. In 2020, when he became, for a brief time, one of the most famous and beloved politicians in America, he was almost untouchable.
That era, thankfully, is long gone. Hochul is not a progressive but she is not openly hostile to the Left either. Her administration is stacked with professional bureaucrats who are not interested in, at least for now, blatantly turning every policy decision into a political calculation. Under Cuomo, heavily Democratic New York City suffered, spending years without a necessary minimum wage hike or strengthened tenant laws. The subway system was allowed to deteriorate. State funding to public housing was miniscule. Privately run charter schools flourished.
If Cuomo can’t pay a legal price for his tenure of abuse, he deserves to continue to suffer in the court of public opinion. Future politicians can take lessons from him — how not to treat staff and underlings, how not to punish a city, how not to govern a state. In that sense, we should hope Andrew Cuomo is never forgotten. His name deserves to live on in infamy, an example of what New York suffered but never deserved.