Don’t profit from tragedy

Advance Media New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo filed his financial disclosure and released his tax records last week, revealing that he stands to earn more than $5 million from his memoir, “American Crisis: Lessons in Leadership from the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

It’s obscene for the governor to profit from the pain of New Yorkers who suffered from the coronavirus. A $500,000 donation to charity for COVID relief doesn’t make it better. Cuomo should give it all away.

Cuomo’s book was timed to capitalize on the national fame he cultivated in daily televised briefings and softball TV interviews with his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Indeed, at the start of the pandemic, Cuomo did show leadership. The governor’s calm, data-driven approach to managing the deadly virus stood in contrast to the denialist, disorganized response coming out of the White House.

The shine came off as journalists and investigators dug up scandal after scandal: nursing home deaths undercounted by half, a key Health Department report rewritten to make the state’s response look better, staffers on the public payroll “volunteering” their time to work on the book, and then investigations into the nursing home issue that caused the publisher to drop the paperback version.

You can still get the book on Amazon, where actual customer reviews are mixed in with scathing critiques of the governor’s tactics from New Yorkers who lost loved ones in nursing homes. “Bella’s Mom” wrote: “The only point of even reading this book is to understand what not to do if you would like to be an effective leader.”

We’re done taking lessons in leadership from the governor. But we have a few for him:

Don’t declare “mission accomplished” until the war is won.

Cuomo’s pandemic memoir came out in October — after COVID cases abated for the summer but before the deadly winter surge. It was much too soon to declare victory. President George W. Bush learned this lesson the hard way, too.

Admit error.

Early on, Cuomo established the narrative of himself as a competent and caring leader. He blamed others (mainly Trump) for the bad hand New York was dealt during the pandemic. He’ll never admit the administration made mistakes, such as sending COVID-positive nursing home patients back to their residences. Instead, the administration bent the data to fit the governor’s heroic narrative.

Listen to the experts.

For all of Cuomo’s professed reliance on data and science, he frequently countermanded the advice of experts in the state Department of Health, leading to an exodus of experienced, highly trained staff. Later, the governor installed a longtime political ally as unpaid “czar” to handle the logistics of vaccine distribution, skirting ethics laws and injecting politics into it.

Don’t give special treatment to people close to you.

Cuomo’s family and friends got special, expedited access to state coronavirus testing from the earliest days of the pandemic, when most New Yorkers could not get a test or waited weeks for results. That’s just wrong.

Don’t ask people to make sacrifices you aren’t willing to make yourself.

In November, the governor told a radio interviewer he had invited his mother and daughters to Thanksgiving dinner in Albany – at the same time he was beseeching New Yorkers not to gather with family members outside their household “bubbles.” After a firestorm of criticism, Cuomo changed his plans.

Don’t profit from others’ misfortune.

Enough said.


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