New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) threatened his career over the ongoing nursing home scandal rocking the administration, warning that he could “destroy” Kim if he did not fall in line and vigorously defend officials involved in the fallout.
Kim, who has publicly accused Cuomo of lying about key aspects of the nursing home coverup, told CNN that the Democrat governor called him directly and threatened his career “if I did not cover up for Melissa [DeRosa] and what she said. ”
“He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience,” Kim said, according to CNN. Cuomo, Kim alleged, continued to threaten his career, telling him that “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines.”
“And he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me,” Kim claimed, adding that “no man has ever spoken” to him in that manner in his “entire life.”
“At some point he tried to humiliate me, asking: ‘Are you a lawyer? I didn’t think so. You’re not a lawyer.’ It almost felt like in retrospect he was trying to bait me and anger me and say something inappropriate. I’m glad I didn’t,” he added:
Kim’s wife told CNN that she had overheard parts of Kim’s phone call with Cuomo last week, and described the governor as “loud” and “angry.” She said she heard Cuomo say, “Who do you think you are?” as well as the words, “my wrath,” and that immediately after the phone call, her husband told her: “The governor threatened to destroy my life.”
Cuomo, Kim said, continued to reach out to the assemblyman, telling the outlet that he “received multiple calls from a ‘No Caller ID’ number, followed by messages from Cuomo aides saying that the governor would like to speak with him again.”
However, he did not comply and has instructed Cuomo’s office to communicate through his counsel, which he hired as a result of the first conversation. Cuomo’s office, however, denies that the governor threatened to destroy Kim.
Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told CNN, “Kim’s assertion that the governor said he would ‘destroy him’ is false.”
“The Governor has three witnesses to the conversation. The operable words were to the effect of, ‘I am from Queens, too, and people still expect honor and integrity in politics,’” Azzopardi said in a statement.
Cuomo has since detailed what he described as a “long and hostile relationship” with the Democrat assemblyman.
The New York Post quoted Kim in its original story, which blew the lid off the administration’s nursing home coverup. The article centered around an admission made by Melissa DeRosa, New York’s secretary to the governor, who admitted that the administration covered up the magnitude of coronavirus-related fatalities in nursing homes out of fear of a federal investigation.
Kim, who was on the call in question, said it sounded as if the administration “admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence that might put the administration or the [Health Department] in further trouble with the Department of Justice.”
“That’s how I understand their reasoning of why they were unable to share, in real-time, the data,” he told the Post, adding, “They had to first make sure that the state was protected against federal investigation.”
While New York Democrats are hoping to strip Cuomo of his coronavirus emergency powers as a result of the coverup, Cuomo has continued to defend his administration’s conduct, including the controversial March 25 directive.
“COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals,” he said during Monday’s press conference, placing the blame on nursing home staff.
“COVID came into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home when we didn’t even know we had COVID — staff walking into a nursing home even though they were asymptomatic because the national experts all told us you could only spread COVID if you had symptoms,” he added.