WATCHING ANDREW CUOMO, New York’s governor, announce a new vaccination site at a church in Mount Vernon, a suburb of New York City, on March 22nd, one could be forgiven for thinking all was well in Cuomolot. The announcement recalled his daily briefings during the early months of the pandemic, when millions tuned in to hear him provide comfort and facts. But Mr Cuomo is in deep trouble.
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In January Letitia James, the state’s attorney-general, released a scathing report saying his administration understated the number of covid-related deaths in state nursing homes by as much as 50%. Ron Kim, an assemblyman who lost a family member to a suspected case of covid-19 in a nursing home, revealed that Mr Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him for criticising him. Other allegations of intimidation followed. At least nine women, including current and former aides, have now come forward with claims of sexual harassment. The most recent did so on March 29th.
He also faces more covid controversy. Reports claim that in the early days of the pandemic he secured then-scarce covid tests for his family and friends.
A majority of the state legislature has called on him to resign, as have most of New York’s congressional delegation and its two senators. Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, wants him to “get the hell out of the way”. Even Joe Biden, the president and a longtime friend of the governor, has said that if the investigation proves the allegations are true, he needs to resign. Mr Cuomo faces an independent probe launched by the attorney-general’s office, an impeachment investigation in the state Senate and a federal inquiry.
The governor, who denies any wrongdoing, claims he is being targeted because he is “not part of the political club”. He is hardly an outsider: the son of a former governor, he served as a cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration and married a Kennedy. But he has few allies in Albany. Until now he did not need many. The state constitution gives him a lot of power and he is used to getting what he wants. His rougher reputation goes back four decades to when he served as an enforcer when his father, Mario, was in office.
His current troubles complicate dealing with the pandemic and the budget, which had a supposed deadline of April 1st. His talks with the legislature’s leaders—one wants him to resign and the other launched the impeachment investigation—are bound to be awkward. Powerful unions, such as the teachers’ union, have been quiet. “They have never been more powerful than they are at this moment,” says E.J. McMahon, of the Empire Centre, a think-tank, “because you’ve got a governor on the ropes who needs friends.”
Mr Cuomo’s approval rating has dipped a bit, but most polls indicate that New Yorkers do not want him to resign. His support among African-Americans remains strong. He has made appearances with black community leaders, such as Charles Rangel, the “Lion of Harlem” and a former congressman. This backing is important. Mr Cuomo is most vulnerable in a potential primary to a woman of colour. The leading possible candidate is Ms James, the attorney-general who exposed the nursing-home scandal. Mr Cuomo says he has no intention of resigning—but the allegations show no sign of ending. ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Crisis in Cuomolot”