Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing two major allegations that have the potential to be the catalysts to remove him from office. However, there is an obvious difference between how the two stories are being covered, and that difference will determine the future of New York State.
For those living under a rock, Governor Cuomo is under investigation for the way his administration mishandled and then attempted to cover up its handling of the mass numbers of COVID deaths in nursing homes throughout 2020. While the media widely ignored this story until the start of 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced an investigation into the Cuomo administration for the whole scandal.
As the Cuomo administration was in turmoil, allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct were levied against Cuomo from multiple former employees. And these allegations have now led to a separate investigation. So in a classic example of “when it rains, it pours,” Cuomo had to deal with two bombshell reports in the span of a month. The result is a possible ousting from office, and even if that doesn’t happen, there is little chance that Cuomo will be able to remain Governor once his term is up.
However, the interesting bit of analysis comes on which of these two stories dominates news coverage, and even more interestingly, why. It should come as no shock that Cuomo’s inappropriate behavior around his female subordinates is the dominant story. Media outlets refused to cover this story as far back as this past summer. So when given the chance to sweep it back under the rug a mere three weeks after being forced to cover it, it should come as no surprise that they immediately jumped away from it.
And in case you need hard evidence to support this, since the first allegation of misconduct became public, CNN has 13 stories devoted to Andrew Cuomo on its website. All 13 of them are about the allegations. None of them are about the nursing home controversy. The New York Times has ten stories about Cuomo; nine of them are about the allegations. The one outlier is about his prospects for reelection. Similar numbers line up for MSNC, The Washington Post, and basically any major news outlet. While conservative outlets like the New York Post and Fox News also have large skews towards Cuomo’s behavior, they haven’t totally abandoned the nursing home scandal. There are three stories on each site about nursing homes since the second story broke. Whether or not you have decided to abandon coverage of the first story seems to lie on which side of the aisle you find yourself.
But the question is why. Why would the media cover the inappropriate behavior rather than the costly policies and subsequent cover-up? Firstly, let us weigh the significance of the two stories. Both stories show how someone in power can use his stature to get what he wants. In one case, it’s the cover up; in the other, it’s his ability to exude dominance over women. What about the victims? The nursing home mismanagement and cover-up led to the deaths of tens of thousands of elderly patients. The inappropriate conduct seems to have affected a small but ever-increasing number of women who worked in Albany over the past few years. This is not to downplay the severity of the allegations against Cuomo; his conduct with his accusers is reprehensible, and if true, definitely are enough to have him removed from office. But when comparing the two stories, it is unquestionable which is the bigger story, with more victims and worse outcomes for the victims.
The next question to examine is: Does it matter which story is covered? The impact against Cuomo is the same. If either is true, he is likely done as governor, and, in fact, his public service career as a whole. It will be about two years before he is able to get a show on network television or consult for a political campaign because American memory is fickle. So why lean so heavily on the second story, and completely sweep the first under the rug? What is the game here?
Let’s get some easy answers out of the way. First, fresher is better. One story is a week old and the other is now getting close to a month. That’s fair, but let me remind you that COVID isn’t over. You don’t just drop a story surrounding the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of people without an agenda, especially not in the uniformity that these media agencies have done so. Plus, the nursing home story is in no way over yet. If the goal was strictly to hit Cuomo, the media would be banging away on both stories simultaneously.
Second, the #metoo movement is still a thing. The fact that this is a clear case of #metoo, and the country has been putting a heavy emphasis on #metoo cases over the past five years, it would make sense that they put a heavy emphasis on it here. But this can’t be a reason why you drop unnecessary deaths numbering in the five figures completely. I refuse to accept that as strong as the #metoo movement is, it overshadows these unacceptable numbers of dead nursing home patients. And even though I explained when then-candidate Joe Biden was accused of misconduct, and had the story ignored by the media, the #metoo movement was dead, people still use it in opportunistic situations. And this is the granddaddy of opportunistic situations.
This leads me to the real reason why the nursing home story has been deserted so abruptly. And that is who is tied up in each story. The perpetrator of the misconduct story is a party of one: Andrew Cuomo. He is the aggressor. He is the man in a position of power. He is the whole story. Nobody else allegedly committed those acts. Nobody else covered for him (as far as we know). It can all be traced back to one person. Easy-peasy.
The nursing home scandal, however, could not be done by one person. Sure, we know who had the final say in all of it, but it could not have been pulled off without compliance from a large group of state officials. Who knows how deep this corruption goes? How many people will be swept up in this, once all is said and done? This has the potential to bring down some very influential people in New York State politics and the Democratic Party. And this is the reason for the shutdown of the media on this story. They don’t want it to be true, so as long as they can ignore it, as long as Letitia James’ office doesn’t come out with any new information, there will be no news from investigative reporters. There will be no “uncoverings” by CNN or The New York Times. The longer this story drags out, the more the media can still claim that Florida is far worse, despite all prevailing data saying otherwise. The more the media can focus on Cuomo the person, rather than the Cuomo administration, the more credence they have to attack Texas government officials on their crisis. You see, spin always matters. The media are masters of spin, so make no mistake that the sudden drop in interest of the tens of thousands of dead people for which the Cuomo administration is responsible is not an accident.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.