Cuomo scandal: New York vaccines czar calling Democrats to gauge their loyalty, report says

New York governor insists he has done nothing wrong

Danielle Zoellner
New York
@dani__zoellner
Sunday 14 March 2021 21:34
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Cuomo urges people to ‘wait for the facts’ before forming their own opinion on the situation

Larry Schwartz, a longtime aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the administration’s current “vaccine czar”, has been calling Democrats to gauge their loyalty, The Washington Post reports.

The aide worked as a secretary for Mr Cuomo from 2011 to 2015. Then last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, he volunteered to rejoin the administration to assist with Covid-19 vaccine distribution for the state.

Now Mr Schwartz has filled the role of being a “political operative” for the Democratic governor at a time when he’s embroiled in scandal.

An unnamed Democratic local executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Washington Post, reported to the state’s attorney general office about a potential ethics violation on Friday after he received a phone call from Mr Schwartz.

The phone call reportedly involved Mr Schwartz asking the official if they planned to publicly support Mr Cuomo, stressing the importance of the state’s ongoing investigation. But it left the executive concerned if their response could impact their area’s vaccine supply.

Read more: What are the chances Andrew Cuomo will leave office?

“At best, it was inappropriate,” the executive was quoted as saying. “At worst, it was clearly over the ethical line.”

When asked by The Washington Post, Mr Schwartz said he did have phone calls with several people but did not mention vaccines.

“I did nothing wrong,” Mr Schwartz said in an email to the publication. “I have always conducted myself in a manner commensurate to a high ethical standard.

“I did have conversations with a number of County Executives from across the State to ascertain if they were maintaining their public position that there is an ongoing investigation by the State Attorney General and that we should wait for the findings of that investigation before drawing any conclusions,” he continued, adding that no one he spoke to appeared “uncomfortable” by the conversation.

“Any suggestion that [Schwartz] acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false,” Beth Garvey, Mr Cuomo’s active counsel, said in a statement.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, has launched an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Mr Cuomo that were raised by seven women.

The governor said he would “cooperate fully” with any investigation, but has denied that he acted inappropriately against the women.

Besides facing sexual misconduct allegations, several women have levied accusations that the governor created a toxic work environment that included bullying and racism.

The number of New York Democrats calling for Mr Cuomo to resign has grown in recent days as he faces more accusations, with Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand speaking out against the governor on Friday. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerry Nadler have also called for Mr Cuomo’s resignation.

Mr Cuomo has declined to resign, stating that the attorney general’s investigation should be allowed to proceed.

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