The Andrew Cuomo New Yorkers know and mostly tolerate, the snarling attack dog who gaslights fellow Democrats and deploys staff to call his female critics “fucking idiots,” dropped down to Earth last week. It was a hard landing after a long-distance love affair with a fanbase in a galaxy far, far away.
In the middle of one of his now Emmy Award–winning (apparently for using “television to inform and calm people around the world”) Red Room press conferences, the governor blew a gasket. The trouble started when Jimmy Vielkind from The Wall Street Journal asked the obvious question that every New York City public school parent wanted to know: Will schools be open tomorrow? Cuomo’s months (years, really) of pissing all over Mayor Bill de Blasio have naturally caused confusion over who owns this loser of a decision, compounded by the fact that the city (3 percent) and state’s (2.5 percent) data on infection rates don’t align. So rather than give a straight answer, the self-described “cool dude in a loose mood,” threw a Trump-style tantrum.
“First of all let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone because you’re 100 percent wrong, these laws have all been in effect for months,” referring to the state’s 3 percent threshold for closings. “I don’t know if you were here, or you were paying attention.”
From there it devolved quickly into a hot screeching mess: “We did it already! That’s the law! An orange zone and a red zone! Follow the facts!”
Vielkind pressed on: “I’m confused. Parents are still confused as well.”
“They’re not confused,” Cuomo snapped back, never answering the question. “You’re confused! Read the law, and they won’t be confused.” When a New York Times reporter chimed in that he too was confused, the governor brushed it aside as a media conspiracy: “I don’t really care what you think. Of course you agree with him, because you’re in the same business with him.”
The whole show ended with Cuomo standing behind the dais shouting at the entire room, “New Yorkers are doing a great job, and don’t demean them. It’s disrespectful to New Yorkers!”
Or maybe just the one?
Cuomo undeniably offered a vision of competent, humane government at the height of the crisis, but this is who he is the rest of the time. It’s why he and his staff reflexively insult anyone who criticizes his handling of the pandemic or insists on returning to the normal system of democratic governance as Jefferson envisioned it. People like the relentlessly honest Bill Hammond from the Empire Center for Public Policy, who’s currently suing the administration to force it to disclose the real number of Covid-related nursing home deaths (“yet another publicity stunt from an arm of the far-right advocacy industrial complex”). Or Assembly member Ron Kim for suggesting that the governor acted against the public interest in letting his state be one of the two that grant hospitals and nursing homes broad corporate immunity (“politically motivated”). Or Democratic and Republican lawmakers who want to curtail the governor’s emergency powers after granting them in March, and return to their role as a co-equal branch of government (“stupid” and “completely political”).
It all boils down to this: Any dissent is a partisan attack on our very lives, and Andrew Cuomo is our only hope. To solidify the narrative, he’s even written a self-congratulatory book at what he calls “half-time” in the crisis. Kind of like how every coach puts out a press release mid-game and Winston Churchill wrote the history of World War II in 1943. Oh, wait…
Indeed, St. Andrew, our savior of the spring, is now milking his 15 minutes of fame for an extra 30. That’s the problem with local reporters, who aren’t your sycophantic brother or the rest of the national media; they’re not here to powder your image. Say what you will about de Blasio, but he sits for twice-weekly interviews with Errol Louis on NY1 and Brian Lehrer on WNYC. New Yorkers know where to tune in to see their mayor submit to regular scrutiny and call in to ask direct questions. Cuomo’s desperately curated image is more than half the reason he’s the dominant player over the mayor, but he still can’t seem to keep his vanity in check. The book is an undignified victory lap by the facts-first persona that won him legitimate praise to begin with, underscoring the point that for Cuomo it was always more about presentation than substance. A reassuring performance made immortal by an actual performer, Maria DeCotis, in her pitch-perfect parodies.
The whole thing was already very Through the Looking Glass before the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced on Friday that they were awarding the governor an Emmy for his “television shows with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure.” Next he’ll be playing himself in an Aaron Sorkin movie, taking three points off the back end. Aside from having just barely survived the delusion that elevated a reality TV character to the presidency, we’re now giving a real-life governor an entertainment award for doing his actual job. Where does that leave governors like Michigan’s Gretchen Witmer, who also gave press briefings, but didn’t take a bow—and got death threats instead?
There’s something genuinely depressing about seeing the son of a man who refused a seat on the Supreme Court so eager to be flattered by Ben Stiller. It’s almost hard to remember how he ridiculed two-time Emmy Award–winner Cynthia Nixon back in 2018 for being an unqualified celebrity.
Turns out he just wanted to trade places all along.