Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York butted heads with the press on Wednesday in a heated exchange while rejecting the idea that New York City public schools would be closed due to a surge in reported coronavirus cases. He appeared unaware that Mayor Bill De Blasio just declared moments earlier the schools would actually be closed starting this week.
The shouting match started when Wall Street Journal reporter Jimmy Vielkind questioned Cuomo about whether he would override any decision by city officials to shut down schools.
“What are you talking about? ‘You’re now going to override,’ we did it already! That’s the law!” Cuomo erupted. “An orange zone and a red zone, follow the facts!”
“I’m still confused,” Viekind replied.
“Then you’re confused!” Cuomo snapped back.
“I’m confused and parents are still confused as well,” Viekind pointed out.
“No, they’re not confused. You’re confused,” Cuomo said to the journalist. “Read the law and you won’t be confused.”
Another member of the press asked bluntly if the schools in New York would be open “tomorrow,” to which Cuomo answered, “The schools are open by state law,” but then the reporter called out the obvious redirect and reinforced Viekind’s line of questioning.
“Well, I don’t really care what you think. Of course, you agree with him because you’re in the same business with him,” the New York governor said with apparent contempt.
Shortly thereafter, New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley informed Gov. Cuomo that Mayor de Blasio’s office had just declared schools would be closed starting on Thursday, something the governor was forced to recognize.
“That 3% [benchmark], the mayor set, in my opinion, in a collaborative with the parents,” Cuomo stated. “That was the agreement and the agreement should be honored.”
The governor’s war of words with the press ignited a strong reaction on social media platforms.
“For someone who presided over so many deaths, especially so many avoidable deaths in nursing homes!, Governor Cuomo should perhaps be a little less overconfident, little less mocking, and a little less aggressive in Covid (!) briefings with the media,” MSNBC analyst Mehdi Hasan responded.
“That’s some Trumpian treatment of a reporter asking a legitimate and fair question, @NYGovCuomo,” Politico staffer Andrew Disiderio posted to Twitter.
“Andrew Cuomo is like the Joe Pesci character of a Martin Scorsese movie without any of the likeability,” Daily Wire contributing editor Harry Khachatrian quipped.
“Cuomo is being incredibly condescending and rude for someone who wrote a book about how well he managed the pandemic before it was over,” BuzzFeed News deputy director David Mack wrote on Twitter.
Mayor de Blasio issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon clarifying that the closures would be happening.
“New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold. Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out an abundance of caution. We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19,” the mayor announced on Twitter.
New York state has had major issues dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to over 579,000 cases and 33,607 deaths attributed to the virus. The high number of cases and fatalities has been blamed by critics on a Cuomo directive, citing his policy of moving infected patients into nursing homes where the virus spread to some of the most high risk citizens in New York.
Gov. Cuomo has declared that despite multiple vaccines being on the horizon, he does not wish to use them to treat New Yorkers.
The New York Post reported that over 300,000 people have abandoned New York City in the past eight months alone, in what is being called a mass exodus.