A series of rebukes between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) continued on Saturday, when Kim accused Cuomo of being abusive.
“The governor has abused his powers,” Kim said to host Neil Cavuto on Fox News‘ Cavuto Live on Saturday. “He has a pattern of abusive behavior. He has abused me and my family by calling me and threatening my career in front of my kids, in front of my wife…We must hold him accountable…that’s what’s at stake right now.”
Cavuto asked Kim about his battle between him and Cuomo, which began after the revelation the governor reportedly concealed data on COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes.
Kim was one of the state legislators on a February 10 Zoom meeting when Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, said the governor’s office “froze” in response to a probe from former President Donald Trump‘s Department of Justice into nursing home deaths.
The assemblyman, who described himself to Cavuto as a “very progressive” Democrat, said that even though he did not agree with Trump, when the DOJ asks for information “you have to provide it.”
On February 11, Kim told The New York Post the DeRosa’s comments were “like they 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.”
Cuomo officially spoke on the matter for the first time during a press conference at the state capitol on Monday, the Daily Gazette reported. He acknowledged “there was a delay” in providing the DOJ with the data because his office was extremely busying processing it.
Kim then led a letter with nine other lawmakers that was published in The Post demanding to repeal the governor’s emergency executive powers and accusing Cuomo of “intentional obstruction of justice.” Cuomo has denied any obstruction of justice and has since accused Kim of engaging in illegal political practices.
“Now these there’s a web of lies and excuses why they couldn’t provide information but sooner or later, the truth will come out,” Kim said to Cavuto. “That’s what’s happening now, and everything is unraveling. And [Cuomo is] shaken, and he’s trying to rope everyone in, including the Senate including the Assembly, as many elected officials as possible, instead of telling the truth to the 15,000 families who lost loved ones in the last 10 months.”
On February 17, Cuomo said in another press conference that he was surprised by Kim’s “negative” comments to the Post because he has appeared positive after the meeting with DeRosa. Cuomo said he then called Kim, who reportedly told the governor that the Post reporter who published the story refused to change his comment.
Cuomo said he then “suggested” that Kim call the Post reporter back and provide a “correct” statement. Kim reportedly agreed to do this, but the comment to the Post was never changed.
According to Kim’s statement, an irate Cuomo called him and proceeded to yell at him, asking: “Are you an honorable man?”
“[The phone call] left my wife in tears for two hours, it had left an indelible mark on my family,” Kim said to Cavuto. “It was a direct threat if I did not issue a statement that he can use to cover up for his top aide. He, at one point…did say, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Well, I am the chair of the committee on aging in the New York State Assembly. It’s my job to protect older adults. I shouldn’t be threatened for doing my job and that is exactly what’s happening here.”
Kim added to Cavuto that he did not have any follow-up conversations with Cuomo after the phone call, and he got a lawyer after Cuomo’s team repeatedly tried to reach him.
In response, Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, refuted Kim’s claim about the phone conversation between the two officials. “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,'” Azzopardi said, as reported by the Post.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview earlier this week he believed Kim’s account, and that these kinds of phone calls from Cuomo are not unheard of.
Kim said to Cavuto he would not support Cuomo if he were to run for a fourth term in 2022, and added that Cuomo’s office is “not interested” in fixing what went wrong in nursing homes amidst the pandemic.
“You need to own up to your mistakes, issue a public apology, create a victims compensation fund for the families who lost loved ones, [and] repeal that stupid legal immunity that gave the worst nursing homes a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Kim said.
Kim’s comment referenced a move by Cuomo in May in response to a lobbying group for the nursing home industry that granted corporate immunity to nursing homes. That followed a March executive order that mandated nursing homes not to turn away residents who could be positive for COVID-19.
Cavuto ask Kim for his impressions on recent calls for to impeach Cuomo. While he said impeachment must be a matter of discussion, Kim said his focus for the upcoming week remains on his role as chair of the legislature’s committee on aging.
“Let’s not forget we still have older adults in these facilities who actually survived COVID, or are suffering with health care costs that they need help with,” Kim said. “So that’s where we should be focused on, at least my role in this, in this space, to make sure we get the policies right and help those older adults.”
Newsweek has reached out to Cuomo and Kim’s offices for comment.