U.S. President Joe Biden has ignored the scandal created by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who deliberately lied about the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes to evade a federal investigation, reports claim.
During the 2020 presidential election, Biden and Cuomo were close and both strongly criticized former President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic. However, this time around President Biden has remained silent about the scandal surrounding the Democratic governor.
On February 12, Cuomo met with Biden as part of a bipartisan group of state and local officials to discuss the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, President Biden did not comment on Cuomo’s situation after the meeting.
The controversy “was not the focus of their conversation or a topic,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during their briefing. The meeting “was not to give anyone a stamp of approval or to get their stamp of approval,” but to get the perspective of state and local leaders, she added.
Cuomo is Chairman of the National Governors Association, and said in a joint statement with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, that the meeting was “productive,” hinting the scandal went unnoticed.
In contrast to Biden, nine Democratic members of the New York State Assembly accused Cuomo of committing an “intentional criminal” act, after he deliberately concealed the real number of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
“We implore you to set aside any concerns of loyalty or disloyalty to this governor, or politicizing this matter,” stated the February 16 letter.
“We must absolutely consider above all the sanctity of the democratic institution that we call the Legislature of the State of New York, and resolutely pursue justice in the face of an executive who we can say without hesitation has engaged in intentional criminal wrong doing” the letter stated.
The lawmakers accuse the governor of obstructing justice by withholding information on the number of deceased seniors in nursing homes in an apparent attempt to evade a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
So far the governor has not apologized for lying and has denied allegations of a cover-up.
Lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have called for an independent investigation of the governor’s handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the scandal has been centered on a controversial order of last year by the governor’s health department that forced nursing homes to admit patients who tested positive for COVID-19.
A report by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat, said that at least 4,000 elderly residents died after Cuomo’s order, and suggested that his directive “may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities.”
The report and a court order forced the Cuomo administration to acknowledge that the death toll of nursing home residents was close to 15,000, nearly the double of what was initially reported (8,500).