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Rattled Andrew Cuomo rants about nursing home scandal ‘lies,’ won’t take responsibility

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A defensive Gov. Andrew Cuomo went on a 15-minute rant Friday in which he vowed to counter what he claimed were “lies” and “misinformation” about his handling of nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic — while again offering no apologies for the death toll in the facilities.

“I’m not going to let you hurt New Yorkers by lying about what happened. Surrounding the death of a loved one,” Cuomo said during a virtual news conference in Albany.

“So, I’m going to take on the lies and the unscrupulous actors, especially when they cause pain and damage to New York.”

Cuomo again denied that a March 25 directive for nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients had caused additional deaths — or that he covered up the true toll, despite a top aide’s recorded admission that was revealed exclusively by The Post.

The embattled governor also declined to take any questions from The Post for the third time in a row since the story broke last week.

And while offering no apologies to the grieving families who blame the since-rescinded nursing home mandate for causing their kin’s deaths, Cuomo heaped praise on his health commissioner and “all the health staff,” saying, “Thank you for a great job.”

Zucker Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker have defended their decision-making at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hans Pennink

“I’m sorry you have to do it in a lousy political environment. But that’s where we are,” he said.

“Sorry that you had to deal with COVID, sorry that you had to deal with a pandemic. I’m sorry that you had to miss your family working seven days a week and I’m sorry then you have to be abused in the partisan politics of the day.”

His remarks, which appeared to have been scripted and were accompanied by slides reinforcing his message, came a day after the New York Law Journal reported that the FBI and the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office had launched a probe of his COVID-19 task force following The Post’s revelation of private remarks by secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa.

During a Feb. 10 virtual meeting with Democratic lawmakers, DeRosa said Cuomo’s administration withheld from them and the public the total number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 for fear the data would be “used against us” by the Department of Justice.

Cuomo’s rant also came amid an escalating feud with a growing, bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who want to strip him of his emergency pandemic powers.

Kim — whose uncle died in a nursing home in April after suffering symptoms of COVID-19 — this week accused Cuomo of threatening him during a phone call prompted by critical remarks he made to The Post.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens) on Friday said she was joining with “our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19.”

Also during Friday’s news conference, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker defended his controversial March 25 directive for nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients, which critics have blamed for spreading the deadly virus among vulnerable seniors.

Zucker said the state was “running out of ICU space” as hospitalizations were “doubling every three days.”

“With the facts that we had at that moment in time, it was the correct decision at that moment in time,” he said.

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