Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed back against criticism on his $5.1 million book deal, calling a reporter’s questions “stupid and offensive.”
“The allegations out that you made this money on the backs of dead New Yorkers: How do you respond to that?” a reporter asked the governor during his press briefing in Buffalo.
“That’s stupid; next question,” Cuomo retorted.
When the reporter later followed up asking why it was stupid that family members who lost loved ones during the pandemic were upset over his book deal, Cuomo said he took issue with the question.
“I thought your question was stupid and offensive,” Cuomo continued. “I wrote a book saying this is what we should learn from what has happened so far with COVID, because we're not done and it's going to continue. And if we don't learn the lessons, we're going to continue to make the same mistakes. That's why I wrote the book.”
Cuomo’s 2020 tax returns that he releases voluntarily every year showed that he is set to gain a total of about $5.1 million from his pandemic book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic," that he wrote during the summer of last year, drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle.
The tax returns revealed Cuomo received a payment of more than $3 million in 2020 and is set to receive an additional $2 million over the next two years. After taxes, Cuomo donated $500,000 of the money to the United Way and put $1 million into a trust for his three daughters.
Currently the Assembly Judiciary committee is investigating whether Cuomo used state resources to write the book as part of its impeachment investigation.
Cuomo’s top advisors helped him write the book, but they claim they did so voluntarily.
Cuomo not only wrote the book while New York was still in throes of battling COVID-19, it was also while he was facing backlash over how the state was classifying COVID related nursing home deaths and a report that was allegedly doctored by Cuomo’s staff.
Health officials submitted a report with the total number of COVID related nursing home deaths last summer, but according to news reports, the number of nursing home residents who passed away at a hospital was removed from the total nursing home death toll, by Cuomo’s top aides.
It was not until an attorney general's report that showed the state was undercounting nursing home deaths by more than 50% that the true death toll was finally released.
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli also has requested Attorney General Letitia James review how government aides were used to help write the book.
“Yes, people died, people died, from COVID,” Cuomo said on Thursday. “Eighteen people died yesterday. Who is to blame? Who is to blame? How do you want to politicize 18 deaths of yesterday?”
Cuomo also suggested that it didn’t matter he used state resources to give preferential treatment to his family when it came to COVID testing, back during a time when securing a COVID test was a difficult task.
"We didn't do anything in New York State that wasn't done by anyone else,” Cuomo said.
The Department of Justice has widened its current investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic to include looking at claims that Cuomo gave “special COVID-19 testing" to his family members, including his brother, his daughter, his daughter’s boyfriend and the father of one of his top aides, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
“If you're going to sit with a governor, they wanted to test you before you were exposed to the governor,” Cuomo claimed. “I was running COVID response for this state, so I didn't want to get COVID, and precautions were taken. But it's the same thing that was done everywhere across this country."