Andrew Cuomo sought $4m book deal even as aides tried to hide nursing home death toll, report says

Cuomo reportedly utilised his office staff while writing an early draft of the book

Namita Singh
Thursday 01 April 2021 13:24
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Andrew Cuomo emotional as he denies inappropriate touching

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Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo was reportedly paid more than $4m for a controversial book where he positioned himself as a “hero” of the coronavirus pandemic.

A New York Times report found that the governor landed a lucrative seven-figure deal with Crown Publishing Group for his memoir American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic around the same time that his office attempted to cover up the number of deaths in New York nursing homes linked to his controversial policies.

The paper also reported that Mr Cuomo sought the assistance of his top aides in the early drafts of his memoir, as he skirted around the state law which prohibits using office resources for personal gains.

The publishing house has halted promotion of the book since a federal probe was launched into the nursing home scandal and amid the controversy surrounding allegations that the New York governor sexually harassed multiple women. Mr Cuomo has apologised, to an extent, saying he didn’t know he was “making anyone feel uncomfortable” while strongly denying he “touched anyone inappropriately”.

According to emails obtained by the Times, Mr Cuomo began writing the book in mid-June and had an early draft written by mid-July. It closely coincided with a report from the state’s department of health that threatened to reveal a far higher number of nursing home deaths from the coronavirus than had previously been made public by his administration.

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Though Mr Cuomo’s office admitted that it removed the higher death toll from an early draft of the report, the governor’s senior adviser rejected the claim that the original number of deaths were hidden because Mr Cuomo was on the brink of a huge payoff.

“There is no connection between the report and this outside project, period,” the governor’s adviser Richard Azzopardi was quoted as saying. “And any suggestion otherwise is just wrong.”

The adviser also defended the involvement of Mr Cuomo’s office aides in the draft, including that of Melissa DeRosa and Stephanie Benton.

Mr Azzopardi said they “volunteered on this project” during their free time and argued that it was “permissible and consistent with ethical requirements” of the state.

He said that “every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project”.

The unpublished draft reportedly includes a searing indictment of Democrat New York mayor Bill de Balsio. Mr Cuomo characterised his frequent political foe as an opportunist having “very little interest or aptitude for government policy or governmental operations.”

Comparing his popularity rating to that of the mayor, he wrote: “My popular rating in New York City has always been higher than his,” arguing that Mr de Blasio should be “viewed as one of the worst mayors in modern history,” who suffers from “obvious ego driven narcissism.”

But assessing his own work, Mr Cuomo was less critical. “I have experience and a skill set that qualifies me as a good governor,” Mr Cuomo wrote in the draft seen by the NYT. “I have accomplished by any objective standard more than any governor in modern history. But I am not a superhero.”

Responding to Mr Cuomo’s assessment of the mayor, Mr de Blasio’s spokesperson said: “Andrew Cuomo writing about ego-driven narcissism sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.”

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