State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the highest-ranking elected official in New York to call for Cuomo’s resignation in early March, citing both the string of sexual harassment allegations against him, including from former aides, as well as his administration’s ongoing scandal regarding how it covered up the accurate number of COVID-related nursing home deaths.
“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it,” Stewart-Cousins said at the time. “We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Yet on April 22, about a month later, she stood by the governor at the Police Athletic League Center to promote vaccinations, praising him and thanking him.
“Thank you also for talking about the work that we did on this budget,” she said. “But we’re here because of what the governor said, as at the center of all of us, is making sure we have our health.”
The trend has continued. At least half of the Senate Democratic delegation from Long Island have appeared at Cuomo’s side after telling him to “step aside” as they await the conclusion of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the allegations.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, like Cousins, stood alongside Cuomo in April in what some people said was an attempt to “normalize” him again.
And on Monday, State Sen. John Brooks appeared to have forgotten his earlier demand as well, complimenting the governor for his work during the pandemic.
“I want to thank the governor for the outstanding leadership that he’s shown throughout the entire pandemic,” Brooks said.
The politicians’ shift did not go unnoticed by lawmakers who have not backtracked from their initial demands of the governor.
“I hope that it’s not a signal for others to think it’s OK to stand with him,” state Assemblyman Ron Kim said after seeing Stewart-Cousins appear with him. “When we don’t have accountability for his actions.”
He added on Twitter on Tuesday that one has to be an “absolute sellout” to praise the governor these days.
The women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment allege that he made inappropriate sexual jokes to them, grabbed their faces, kissed them without consent, and more. In his first press conference addressing the scandal, Cuomo said he apologized if he made anyone uncomfortable but went on to defend his behavior, saying that was his “customary way of greeting.” His brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, recently got in hot water himself for admitting that he gave the governor advice on the allegations. CNN decided against taking disciplinary action.
Moreover, recent reports have revealed the extent to which the Cuomo administration hid the true COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes. Officials reportedly knew the actual statistic since last spring but played it down out of fear of a Justice Department investigation. Critics and grieving New Yorkers lay much of the blame at the governor’s feet for forcing recovering COVID patients back into nursing homes with his March 2020 mandate. His office denies that the order resulted in such an uptick in fatalities.