NEW YORK — After being silent over a controversy sparked by comments from top aide Melissa DeRosa, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday publicly backed up what she told legislators in a private Zoom call last week.
DeRosa said the administration did not fulfill the legislature’s request for data last year on nursing home deaths, opting instead to comply with a request for data from the U.S. Justice Department first.
“We paused the state legislature’s request. We voluntarily complied with the DOJ request for information. Two very different things,” Governor Cuomo said during the briefing.
But many state legislators say they were never told that by the administration when they requested the data last fall.
In a statement Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the only thing he knew about a DOJ inquiry was what he read in news reports at the time.
The request from DOJ was reported in the media, but Cuomo also says he explicitly told legislators that was the reason for the delay.
“They say nobody told them that. I understand. We did tell the houses. I am sure there was a breakdown in communication now between the staff and the house and the actual legislators,” said Cuomo.
Responding to the governor, State Senator Allesandra Biaggi of the Bronx tweeted, “I found out about a DOJ investigation with the rest of NY'ers in the @nypost story Thursday night.”
At issue in this whole back and forth is data related to nursing home deaths. For months, the Cuomo administration has maintained that roughly 8,700 people died in nursing homes. But just last week the administration acknowledged that figure was closer to 15,000, if you include nursing home and long-term care facility residents, who died in hospitals.
The Cuomo administration only made the data available after losing a lawsuit to the Empire Center think tank. Now he says, all of it is public.
“There is nothing to investigate there. And then we provided information to DOJ. So, there is nothing to investigate,” Cuomo said.
Asked whether he would simply apologize for failing to release the nursing home data for so many months, Cuomo chose his words carefully.
“Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly we made a mistake in creating the void. We made a mistake in creating the void. When we didn’t provide information it allows people, press, cynics, politicians to fill the void,” Cuomo said.
State legislators are also threatening to rescind the governor’s emergency powers granted to him last year to fight the pandemic. Cuomo addressed that also, saying his emergency powers have nothing to do with nursing homes.