White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday distanced President Biden from his past assessment that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the “gold standard” of COVID-19 management.
Psaki said it was important to recall that Biden said positive things about many local leaders early in the pandemic last year — offering a distinct non-vote of confidence in the beleaguered fellow Democrat, who faces dual scandals relating to a coverup of COVID-19 nursing home deaths and sexual harassment allegations from a former aide.
“Well, first of all, I think, to be fair, let’s put all the comments in context, which sometimes is missing from these conversations we have in here and during interviews. At the time, which was I believe April of last year, the president spoke out and said positive things about a range of governors — Democrats and Republicans — who were stepping in when there was a vacuum of leadership at the federal level, when they were getting no information, when they were getting no help, and no guidance from the former Trump administration,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
“He made some positive comments about Governor Cuomo and his role in New York at the time as he did about a range of governors.”
Psaki also said that Biden supports sexual harassment accusers — responding to a question about former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan’s Wednesday claim that Cuomo kissed her without her consent and suggested they play “strip poker.”
Democrats including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are calling for a probe of Boylan’s claims.
“Let me first say that the president has been consistent in his position. When a person comes forward, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Their voice should be heard, not silenced. And any allegation should be reviewed,” Psaki said.
“Governor Cuomo is also the governor of one of the largest states in the country, that has been one of the hardest hit with millions of people still suffering from an ongoing pandemic and an economic crisis, and our focus is to continue working with governors from across the country from a range of states on how we’re helping people in their states. He also is still head of the National Governors Association.”
Biden will meet virtually with Cuomo on Thursday afternoon in his role as chairman of the NGA. Cuomo most recently met with Biden in person this month a day after The Post reported on an explosive admission from top aide Melissa DeRosa that his administration hid data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes out of fear that the true numbers would “be used against us” by federal prosecutors.
Cuomo has attempted to walk back the damage by claiming DeRosa was only talking about stonewalling state legislators, but Democratic and Republican skeptics alike note that her remarks appear to describe broader obstruction of the feds as well, which could amount to a crime. The FBI and US attorney for the eastern district of New York reportedly are investigating Cuomo.
Cuomo denies that a March 25 state rule barring nursing homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients contributed significantly to New York’s 46,000 COVID-19 deaths. But after months of scrutiny, New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, last month revealed that the Cuomo administration underreported by about 50 percent the number of deaths linked to nursing homes.