New York State Democrats lashed out at Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday following a press conference in which he made a disputed claim about his administration’s handling of requests for data on COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes.
The governor sought to clarify his team’s actions at the press conference, telling reporters that the Department of Justice and state legislatures submitted requests for data at the same time last summer. Cuomo said his team opted to prioritize the federal inquiry and informed state lawmakers their request for data would be "paused" in the meantime.
"We gave precedence to the DOJ. We told the assembly that, we told the Senate that and that's what we did. We were also in the midst of managing a pandemic," Cuomo said at the press conference.
Cuomo said any disconnect between his office and state lawmakers was the result of a "breakdown in communication between the staff and members of the legislature." But several Democratic lawmakers, including New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, denied that Cuomo’s office ever informed them of its decision.
"Trash. No one believes you," Ramos wrote on Twitter.
"At no point did the Administration notify the legislature about a DOJ investigation," she added. "People died and Cuomo lied then he had the gall to write a book."
Ramos is one of several state Democratic lawmakers who have called for Cuomo to be stripped of his emergency powers for his mishandling for the nursing home data. Last week, the Associated Press reported that Cuomo’s administration significantly underreported nursing home deaths, and the New York Post published a leaked transcript of a call in which a top Cuomo aide seemingly admitted his office withheld data out of a concern that it could be used in a federal investigation.
New York State Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Gustavo Rivera, both Democrats, also took aim at Cuomo’s remarks. Both lawmakers said they first learned of the DOJ’s probe into New York nursing home deaths in local newspapers, not from the governor’s office.
"No, @NYGovCuomo, you did not tell the *entire* Senate or Assembly that there was a DOJ investigation, as the reason why you didn't share the nursing home numbers," Biaggi said on Twitter. "I found out about a DOJ investigation with the rest of NY'ers in the @nypost story Thursday night."
Representatives for New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, also pushed back on Cuomo’s claim.
Cuomo asserted that state legislatures were "wrong" to suggest they were never informed about the delay for their data request. The governor expressed regret over the delays in releasing data, admitting the requests "should have been prioritized."
"The void we created misinformation and created more anxieties for the families of loved ones," he said.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied that his office withheld or misrepresented data relating to nursing home deaths.