Governor Andrew Cuomo railed against Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim on Wednesday, exposing layers of a friction between the two going back years, with each accusing the other of being involved in “pay-to-play” politics.
Kim has been one of the loudest voices in calling on Cuomo to be formally stripped of his emergency powers due the alleged cover-up of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes as well as immunity granted to hospital executive who donated to his campaign.
But on Wednesday, Cuomo rebutted a claim by Kim that the governor was catering to moneyed interests — and then claimed the Flushing legislator had engaged in a continued “racket” with business owners. It marked the latest salvo in the beef between Kim and Cuomo, who grew up in Queens and often describes himself as a “Queens boy.”
“On March 25th, the governor issued an executive order that sent COVID-19 positive patients into unprepared nursing homes,” Kim said in a statement after the call. “At the same time, he surreptitiously slipped legal immunity into our state budget bill for hospital executives and for-profit nursing homes at the request of powerful lobbyists like the Greater New York Hospital Association — a group that donated $1.25 million towards his campaign. All while his administration lied about the data.”
Kim accused Cuomo’s office of providing the U.S. Department of Justice information on the nursing home debacle, which Cuomo denied stating that the state legislature’s request was paused in order to provide the information to the federal government.
Cuomo additionally said a New York Post article had misquoted Kim. The governor had urged both the publication and the lawmaker to issue an alternative statement on the nursing home deaths in favor of his administration.
“My office – more than me – has had a long and hostile relationship with Assemblyman Ron Kim. It goes back to the issue on nail salons. We passed a bill that we worked very hard on to protect nail salon workers who were often victimized by businesses, exposed to dangerous chemicals, wage theft was prevalent,” Cuomo said. “Assemblyman Kim supported the bill, he then flipped 180 degrees because the nail salon business owners found the bill onerous … I believe that Mr. Kim acted unethically if not illegally on that matter. I do believe he has a continuing racket where he raises money from [nail salon owners].”
Just hours prior the press call in which the governor called out Kim, the Queens rep tweeted: “Gov Cuomo pushed for blanket COVID legal immunity for unprepared nursing homes in the budget (which I voted against) and it passed by one vote. Question remains: Who got to Gov Cuomo? Why did he take industry language and stuck in budget last minute?”
Kim and Bronx/Westchester state Senator Alessandra Biaggi introduced a bill on Tuesday that would strip the emergency powers cultivated by Cuomo over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic while the former made additional of obstruction of justice.
“This is not about the governor. This is about us protecting the integrity of the senate & assembly as this administration attempted multiple times to implicate us in their cover-ups,” Kim said on the matter.
In response to a reporter about the unusual remarks, Cuomo clarified that he made them in response to an attack on his integrity, charging that it was not an unprovoked assault on the Flushing lawmaker.
Cuomo addressed the raw nature of the topic at hand: “The void [in reporting nursing home deaths] made it worse and my administration created the void. That I feel bad about. Not illegal, not unethical, but [I] just failed people in that moment.”