Cuomo Was Always New York’s Bad Guy. Here’s Why He Was Finally Exposed.
The governor was anointed as the anti-Trump and happily, greedily played the part as facts were ignored, dismissed, even hidden. Mass death meant mass fame.
I do sometimes wonder why it took so long.
Why is it now, in 2021, that so many people are finally waking up to the reality of Andrew Cuomo? A year ago, he was elevated to the status of hero and myth, so absurdly lauded—the magazine covers, the self-declared Cuomosexuals, the Emmy, the sycophantic interviews conducted by his CNN host brother—that it could seem that there was little justice left in a world already so deranged.
Cuomo, once America’s governor like Rudy Giuliani was once America’s mayor, seems to add new lines to his political obituary every day. There is the body count from coronavirus in New York, which maintains the country’s second-highest death toll. There are the nursing home bodies he refused to count, the first federal probe into how that information was hidden, the second federal probe into the nursing home tally, and the unhinged threats against a state lawmaker just trying to do his job.
Now comes new scandal: two former members of his administration have accused him of sexual harassment. The first said he forcibly tried to kiss her. The second, who was just 25 when she worked for him, said he discussed sleeping with much younger women and effectively propositioned her for a relationship. There are calls for outside, independent investigations, even for his impeachment or resignation. In his 10 years as governor, Cuomo has never been weaker. That is inarguable.
But too many politicians, pundits, and reporters allowed Cuomo to soar for all these months. In a sense, they are lucky he is Icarus, so hubristic that he decided to publish a memoir about combating the pandemic during the pandemic. Cuomo is undoing himself. A more rational, center-left Democratic governor—picture New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, Connecticut’s Ned Lamont, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, or Washington’s Jay Inslee—would never call up a state legislator and threaten to “destroy” them. None of them attempted to so blatantly obscure data on the deaths in their own states. None of them got book contracts.
Cuomo, so heedless and arrogant and devoid of the self-awareness gene that a certain former president from Queens also lacked, could have been brought down long ago if the most influential cable television stations, newspapers, and talking heads asked the obvious questions.
In March 2020, why wasn’t the pundit class asking Cuomo about how he kept comparing coronavirus to the flu and insisting that “fear” was more dangerous than the virus itself? Why did so few seem to care when he dismissed the idea of shutting down New York City as late as March 17 because his nemesis, Bill de Blasio, happened to suggest it first? Why was there so little outrage when the austerity-mad governor was trying to gut the funding of public hospitals and public universities?
Why do we have to tear down the myth? Why did the myth exist? Why did Cuomo’s top aide, the person who told state legislators she withheld nursing home data because she feared a Department of Justice investigation, get glowing lifestyle coverage in the Times—“competence is captivating”—and an appearance on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar?
There is an endemic in contemporary journalism that has been fully exposed by Cuomo debacles. Reporters crave narratives. They seek to arrange facts in such a way that stories can be told. They are taught to do this in journalism schools, editors push them there, and Twitter seals the deal.
In literature, characters have foils. In journalism, which too often takes its cues from the same place, this is also true. If Trump was darkness, someone had to be light. And it was decided that the tough-talking governor from New York who mastered the most rudimentary of presentation techniques, the PowerPoint, must be cast in this role.
I am a novelist; I love reading fiction and believe it, truly, to be the highest art form. But the principles of fiction must be kept entirely separate from the realm of reporting, as the state should be sealed off from the church. Novelists invent; reporters report. They should not be casting around for human beings to spotlight as supposed antidotes to other human beings, to inject plot into a world that is usually devoid of one.
But they do. Cuomo was anointed and he happily, greedily played the part. The facts were ignored, dismissed, even hidden. Mass death meant mass fame. Now we are beyond that, finally, and the same media apparatus that gave us Cuomo the COVID Conqueror has decided to amplify all that is wrong with him and introduce Cuomo the Consummate Creep.
It should’ve happened a lot sooner.