NEW YORK – Call it salvage.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stands by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at every opportunity, seizing the governor’s woes as crises mount for his fellow Democrat and longtime rival.
De Blasio called Cuomo’s alleged behavior “grotesque,” “perverse” and “terrifying,” saying on Tuesday he had to resign if the sexual harassment accusations made by several women were founded.
“If these allegations are true, he cannot govern,” the mayor told reporters.
There has been no love lost between the two top New York executives in years, with a feud simmering dating from 2015 as the mayor formed as a progressive national leader and the governor collapsed in the polls.
But de Blasio – aware of Cuomo’s power over city affairs and his willingness to use it to punish his enemies – has generally been careful to phrase his criticisms in a polish of civility.
Now, as Cuomo appears vulnerable amid double scandals involving allegations of sexual harassment and deaths at Covid-19 nursing homes, de Blasio is telling the world what he really thinks.
There is more at stake for de Blasio than the chance to rejoice in the potential downfall of an enemy who has plagued him for years. He’s pushing the state legislature to remove the emergency powers they gave Cuomo at the start of the pandemic, which took away the city’s control over everything from vaccine distribution to shutdown and shutdown. reopening of restaurants inside.
And the mayor is perhaps weighing a race for the governor himself. Asked about his future in recent days, he said he would like to continue working in the public service and has not ruled out a candidacy for governor.
“The people of New York State will look at everything and deliver their judgments in due course,” de Blasio said last week. “I haven’t made any plans for my next steps yet. At some point, I will fix the problem.
The mayor again raised funds through two political action committees which he used to finance his ill-fated presidential election. Five long-time donors – Dennis and Karen Mehiel, Olga and George Tsunis and Jack Rosen – donated a total of $ 17,500 to the New York State Fairness PAC in December, according to records. A month later, Mason Tenders District Council and the 32BJ SEIU, two politically active labor groups, also donated $ 5,000 each to the Blasio State Committee. Les Mehiel and Rosen also donated $ 15,000 to the federal PAC for fairness.
A member of the mayor’s team said the committees were raising funds to repay tens of thousands of dollars they still owed in debt and recent contributions had nothing to do with the governor.
Meanwhile, the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo – and before that the nursing home death scandal – have given de Blasio all the fodder he needs to become a constant presence on cable news.
“Yes [an investigation] proves that these claims are true, how can someone run a state if they’ve done this stuff? de Blasio told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday.
Three women, including two former employees, publicly accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior. One of her accusers, Lindsey Boylan, says he kissed her without her consent. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are probing Cuomo’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in nursing homes, after the state for months failed to report thousands of deaths.
The double scandal drew attention to Cuomo’s story of aggressive behavior and threats, which de Blasio says he experienced firsthand.
“I have worked with many political leaders. I talk to Chuck Schumer all the time. I spoke to Nancy Pelosi. I’m going down a whole list. I have worked with US presidents, ”de Blasio said Monday night inside New York City Hall. “Nobody acts like that.”
On Tuesday, he again said the governor would have to step down if the allegations confirmed it and once again insisted on a return to local control.
“If you put too much power in one person’s hands, bad things happen. We need a return to local control, ”de Blasio said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
Cuomo’s strong hold led to repeated clashes during the Covid-19 crisis. When de Blasio first called for a closure in New York City as disease encroached, Cuomo immediately shot down the idea. Researchers later discovered that an earlier closure could have saved thousands of lives.
Cuomo too beaten down Blasio’s announcement that schools in the city would remain closed for the remainder of last school year, only to eventually sign. And the governor’s administration initially decried City Hall advice that New Yorkers should wear masks, which the city did not have the power to issue a warrant.
But the two clashed over a number of pre-pandemic issues, including state funding, the MTA and tax the rich.
With the dramatic expansion of Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers, Blasio’s independence from Albany has been further curtailed.
“The state legislature must immediately revoke the governor’s emergency powers that nullify local control,” de Blasio said in a statement on Sunday, as he called for two separate independent inquiries into the sexual harassment and nursing home allegations.
After a former aide, Charlotte Bennett, told the New York Times the governor asked him about his sex life and told him he was open to dealing with younger women, Cuomo admitted to “being playful” and teasing employees about their personal lives in a way that could be interpreted as unwanted flirtation. “As far as anyone felt that, I’m so sorry,” he said.
De Blasio was quick to reject the governor’s attempt at mea culpa.
“These are not excuses,” he said on Monday. “He seemed to be like, ‘Oh, I was kidding.’ You know, sexual harassment is no fun. It is serious. It must be taken seriously. “
In daily press conferences that continued even when Cuomo retired behind closed doors for over a week and counting, as well as several national television appearances, de Blasio has been equally harsh on Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home crisis.
Some 15,000 residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New York City have died from the virus – figures that were not released until after State Attorney General Tish James released an investigation concluding that the state underestimated nursing deaths by 50%, failing to include those who died in hospitals. .
Cuomo’s senior aide told lawmakers the administration had “frozen” and withheld the data for fear it would be used against them by the Trump administration, sparking further outcry. It remains unclear to what extent Cuomo’s policy requiring nursing homes to admit Covid-positive patients contributed to the death toll.
“Thousands of lives lost. We still don’t know why. We still do not know to what extent the truth has been covered up. We still don’t know how much of it may have been due to the influence of the nursing home industry’s election contributions, a very powerful industry. There is so much to discover here, ”said de Blasio, who himself has faced several allegations of favors to campaign donors, said Monday on CNN.
“I don’t see how anyone can function as a governor and have the trust of the people and the respect of the people, if they have deliberately covered up the deaths of thousands of our elders, our elders, family members, members of the beloved family who have left, ”he added.
Joe Anuta and Amanda Eisenberg contributed to this report.