NEW YORK (PIX11/AP) — A Democratic lawmaker says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to “destroy” him following criticism of the governor’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.
The governor used a Wednesday call with reporters to blast Assemblyman Ron Kim, of Queens, for being one of nine Democratic assembly members to sign onto a Tuesday letter to the Assembly that sought support for a bill to possibly impeach the governor and remove his emergency powers, which are set to expire this spring.
Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim says in a phone call last week, Gov. Cuomo threatened to destroy his reputation and political career, if the assemblyman did not fall in line. Kim spoke at length with PIX11 News, giving us a detailed account of what transpired in the call.
“It was near 8 o’clock I was just putting my girls to take a bath my wife was right there and I get a call from the governor’s number,” said Kim. “He just proceeded to let me know his ability to do stuff to me that he will go out tomorrow and start telling the world how bad of a person I am and I will destroy your political carer and you’re finished.”
In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.
Wednesday, the governor seemingly made good on that threat.
“My office more than me, has had a long and hostile relationship with Assemblymember Ron Kim,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi called Kim a liar who had consistently misspoke about the Cuomo administration.
“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night,” Azzopardi, who was on the phone call, said in a statement. “I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred. At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.'”
The Cuomo administration sent out a rush transcript of the call Wednesday. You can read it in its entirety here.
Kim has been a frequent critic of the administration on nursing home issues, including its months-long delay in releasing a full count of fatalities. One of the fatalities was Kim’s own uncle, a war veteran who had been living in a nursing home in Queens for 8 years. He died in April, likely from COVID-19.
“This is also deeply personal for me and he deflected and just tried to distract the public from what’s at stake here, which is their office lying about information relating to life and death,” said Kim.
Cuomo on Monday said the state didn’t cover up deaths, but should have moved faster to release information. “No excuses: I accept responsibility for that,” he said at a news conference.
Kim has not minced words, accusing the Cuomo administration of a cover-up. He has also called for the governor to be stripped of his emergency powers.
“The moment his secretary, his top aide admitted to hiding DOJ information she already implicated all of us in that room,” said Kim. “Then he tried to implicate me in that call by asking me to do something unethical, possibly illegal, to cover up the cover-up.”
According to Kim, things hit a fevered pitch when the Governor called him last Thursday, over negative comments Kim made about Cuomo in a New York Post article. Kim says that’s when the threats were made.
“He says this is the statement you will issue tonight, not tomorrow, tonight,” said Kim.
Wednesday, the governor fired back, in a stunning manner, spending a significant part of the news conference on allegations Kim engaged in pay-to-play politics. It stems from a 2015 bill protecting nail salon workers. Cuomo claims Kim at first supported the bill, then reversed course when he accepted donations from salon owners.
“I believe it’s unethical, if not illegal and it’s a continuing racket,” said Cuomo.
But Mr. Kim says this is not about a political vendetta against the governor, rather it’s about a search for the truth.
“We need the truth, I’m not interested in vilifying and demonizing, picking a fight, this is not about me, not about the Governor,” said Kim. “This is just a big distraction for him to deflect, he wants to talk about nail salons when 15,000 people have died in nursing homes.”
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi backed Kim late Wednesday in a statement.
“I stand with Assemblymember Ron Kim. Assemblymember Kim has been a north star in the fight for transparency and justice for those lost to COVID-19 in nursing homes. Gov. Cuomo’s statements today about Assemblymember Kim are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior from the Governor. Instead of accepting responsibility for mistakes, the Governor has chosen to deflect blame and evade accountability time and time again.