New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks with WAMC's Alan Chartock on Friday, July 10, 2020.
Alan Chartock: Good afternoon to you, sir.
Governor Cuomo: Alan, I can't believe you made them stop saying Dr. Chartock.
Alan Chartock: Oh I don't care what they call me, just don't call me late for dinner. What is that? Governor, there's this tropical storm heading our way. Tropical Storm Fay, as we speak - risk of flooding. What are you doing to get ready for that?
Governor Cuomo: I was just on with a couple of governors - Governor Murphy and Governor Wolf from Pennsylvania - we were talking about it. I said, "You know what, I'll take a good storm any day in exchange for what we've gone through with COVID."
We have the emergency operation all set up. Emergency operation center is working. We have people all throughout the state. We've deployed equipment and we're prepared and we'll see what Mother Nature brings for us and then we'll handle it.
Alan Chartock: We've had this kind of thing before. I remember the last time when the subways got flooded with one of these things.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, we've been through this a number of times. The question is to the degree. We have a much more sophisticated emergency operation in this state than we've ever had, Alan. We bought new equipment, new trucks, pumps, et cetera. There's no doubt that there's global warming and these weather emergencies have occurred with much more frequency. But we've also been much more prepared than we've ever been.
Alan Chartock: Do you keep the subways open? Do you think - did we learn anything the last couple of times when the subways got flooded and we had to close down?
Governor Cuomo: Oh yeah. After Superstorm Sandy we reinvented the whole infrastructure basically. We now have what the MTA - they have capacity to enclose subway entrances - the grates that bring the water down into the tracks. We have different storage facilities for trains. It's a much different operation.
Alan Chartock: So, I wanted to ask you something. You were on the air every day. We all watched religiously. It became a thing to watch you and then watch the President when he spoke. But you're not doing that anymore. What are you doing with all of your free time?
Governor Cuomo: There's not a lot of free time. I was doing it every day. I probably do it 3 or 4 times a week now depending on the week. There's not a lot of free time. This COVID takes a lot of time still. We're in a bit of a lull. Our numbers are good. We work very hard to keep them there. You have other parts of the country that are just going through what we went through a few months ago. It's a cruel tragedy that this nation learned nothing from what we did.
All the lives lost, all the money spent. There's nothing that they're going through that we didn't go through 3 or 4 months ago. That this federal government allowed this to happen is going to go down in the history books as one of the great blunders of government.
Whatever happens, doctor, this is going to be a period to learn from. I am now thinking about writing a book about what we went through, lessons learned, the entire experience because if we don't learn from this then it will really compound the whole crisis that we've gone through.
Alan Chartock: Do you think the President's actions - I want you to think about this for a second - do you think the President's actions amount to criminality? We throw a kid who goes into a grocery store with a gun in prison for much of his life and here's a guy who's responsible, this President, for tens of thousands of deaths because he wouldn't put a mask on.
Governor Cuomo: Gross, gross negligence. Gross, gross negligence. Despite the unethical behavior, the lack of professionalism, the narcissism - at best gross negligence. It's not just the mask, the not wearing a mask. I did the numbers the other day, Alan.
The projection models, first of all, project tens of thousands more Americans die because these other states have been negligent in their reopening and pushed by this President. Liberate New York. Liberate Texas. Liberate Ohio. The governors who actually listened to him now have serious trouble.
It's not just that, the numbers are way up on the reopening. Then they project another 40,000 people are going to die who would not have died if you had a mask policy. Think about that: 40,000 people because he won't wear a mask. We learned all this. We went through this. It's no longer a debate. Was Cuomo right or was Trump right? Phased reopening based on numbers, or just reopen?
We ran the numbers. We went into the laboratory. It was called the State of New York, and we had the spike, and we showed you can get it down and you can reopen intelligently. And then you have all these other states that just reopened, and you see the numbers going through the roof. At what point do you stand up and say, stop putting the needle in your arm, you know? It's not just retrospective, Alan. He's still doing it. He didn't wear a mask today. He didn't stand up today and say Arizona, Texas, Florida, Ohio, we see it spreading. Slow down. Close down the bars. Do a mass gathering law.
You don't hear that coming out of his mouth. He's in Florida. You see the numbers going through the roof. He says absolutely nothing. And he thinks that COVID hurt the economy, and therefore you had to deny COVID so you could help the economy and the economy was going to make him president? No. The mishandling of COVID is going to kick him out of office. And it should.
Alan Chartock: Okay. I believe it. But what about those governors? What about the DeSantises and others. I mean, have they no morality, have they no. You're a governor, you're a politician, you know how to sort of analyze where they are, why they're doing what they're doing. But it does seem that there's just, have any morality there.
Governor Cuomo: Well, you know, morality, you have to look at this. Either they listen to the president's advice, or they got bad advice on their own state level, or they didn't know what to do about it anyway. You know, Alan, what you take for granted, because we're New York and because I am who I am, you just take for granted that the state government can intervene in this viral pandemic and actually make a difference and put out these strict laws and have the courage to do that, and then enforce them and have sanctions if they're violated, and put together testing, and put together tracing, and build new hospital beds, and figure out how to get PPE and ventilators. You assume that because of New York government, because of my past. You can have a lot of governors who I've spoken to about this, who just say you know, this is more than they can step in front of. The train is coming too fast.
Alan Chartock: Why? You did it, why can't they? Opportune they're asking you the question.
Governor Cuomo: Can they, or do they not want to, or they don't have the same type of government, they don't have the same type of legislature, they don't have the same capacity. I don't know, but you know, you could have a governor who says look, if the president says it's okay to reopen, and local governments, they can do what they want to do, you know, my cities can put in a mask order or whatever they want, let the state stay out of this.
Alan Chartock: You know, you established this 14-day quarantine for any visitors coming to New York from states with high COVID rate. Are people complying? Are they doing what you want them to?
Governor Cuomo: The numbers on compliance seem to be good. We're putting up a more rigorous system. I'll tell you what's going to happen, and you can mark your calendar on this. You're going to see our numbers and the Northeast numbers probably start to increase because the virus that you see now in the south and the west, California has real trouble, it's going to come back here. It is going to come back here. It's like being on a merry-go-round. It's totally predictable. And we're going to go through an increase. I can feel it coming. And it is so unnecessary, and so cruel.
We had to deal with it because it came from Europe in the first place, because the federal government was just asleep at the switch. We did nothing to cause it. We then defeat it in New York. The other states don't take the same precautions. It rises up in the other states and then is going to come back here from the other states. That's what's going to happen. The only question is how far up our rate goes. But you can't have it all across the country and not come back. You think nobody's coming here from California and these states? Come on.
Alan Chartock: Is there a way to stop it? I mean can you, using your good offices, can you get in the way of it?
Governor Cuomo: I don't think so. Look, we're doing everything we can. The quarantine, we have an enforcement mechanism. But, you know, how do you catch somebody driving in, right? I mean, it's very very difficult, it's trying to catch water in a screen. And there's a certain inevitability to it. It was in China, got on a plane, went to Europe, people in Europe got on a plane, came here. Then it went down south, down west, and it's going to come back.
Alan Chartock: Now, you offered help to Governor DeSantis, not one of my favorites, and he appeared to rebuff your offer of support, but this afternoon you said you were sending Remdesivir to Florida. How did you change Governor DeSantis's mind on that or did you?
Governor Cuomo: No, I didn't change his mind - he changed his own mind if anything. I offered help, I believe in that. Other states were so kind to us when we were going through it and the American people were so kind to us. We have 30,000 people volunteered to come here - 30,000 healthcare professionals, I mean it was just amazing. So, I offered help, they said they needed Remdesivir I said we would send it but anything we can do, I'm talking to other Mayors, other Governors and impacted areas of the country right now they're asking for different things some asked if I could even bring down a team to help. So, but anything we can do will do and it's good - it's not only lived with the right thing to do, Alan, there's also self-interest because I'm afraid of the rebound.
Alan Chartock: Do we have a special relationship with Florida? In other words, an awful lot of New Yorkers end up in Florida, older people, others, they retire there. Are you cognizant of that and do you sort of treat them as a sort of expatriate New Yorkers?
Governor Cuomo: Everybody's grandparents live in Florida. I was campaigning for Al Gore, I was in the senior citizen home in Miami, and I'll never forget and I'm doing a thing for Gore's sake, "Anybody here from New York?" Every hand in the senior citizen home went up. I think yes, we do have a special relationship, you know they talk about the migration from New York to Florida that was, for so many years it was a normal trajectory. You worked here, you got to retire, you went down to Florida, but, yes, I think there's a certain connection, but I've made the same offer to every state, Alan. It's just who we are as New Yorkers, right? We were here post-9/11, everybody came to help. That's what we are.
Alan Chartock: You know, you and I have talked about nursing homes a number of times, so tell me your own Department of Health came out with a report I read, I thought it was extraordinarily clear, but once get some of this stuff in their heads, it doesn't go away. You're a politician, you know, how you do deal with that? How do you deal with the fact that people once get an idea, they won't give it up?
Governor Cuomo: Look, it's a lousy business. What they did, what they did was they were trying to distract from the President's culpability here, he is culpable for what has happened. And they hate the positive example of New York and some of the Democratic states that have done a good job, so they manufactured a criticism. The people in nursing homes died, yes, terrible unfortunate - the virus preys on the senior citizens. "Well, they didn't have to - it was State policy." That was ludicrous, it was cheap, it was ugly, it was political, it was Fox News, it was the haters and it was a lie, just a pure lie, not based on any fact, but they did it for political expediency. Now if you're saying how terrible because after a lie is repeated people believe it, yeah it is terrible and this was in some ways despicable to say that lives could have been saved, your mother's life could have been saved but for government. It was a lie.
Alan Chartock: I saw new numbers, poll numbers and something, 60 percent, 65 percent, something like that New Yorkers think you're doing a terrific job, but at one point you had it up to 70 percent - you think that 5 percent were the nursing home casualty question?
Governor Cuomo: No, not that I want to correct you but you're putting two different numbers together. The job performance number in the Marist poll was the highest number ever since I've been Governor, since Marist has been polling, which goes back from day one. Then there's a COVID-19 performance number, which is higher. No, the performance of COVID is actually higher than the overall job performance.
There are some people, I don't think it was in this poll, but I am sure that the nursing home communicated to the people who are inclined to be negative but even with all of that and it was Fox and the New York Post - that's all they wanted to talk about, right? But even with all of that, the people on, it's interesting, on the whole performance, "How did you handle COVID," they saw me every day, they heard me every day, they listened to those briefings. And you know who people believe more than anyone? They believe themselves and they heard me and they looked at me and they watched me for a long enough period where they said, you know what, I now have an instinct about this guy. I'm going to decide if I think he's a baloney artist or if he's sincere or if he's competent or if he's a dummy. I'm going to decide because I'm watching him and they decided from their eyes and their ears and their mind, you know what, I think they guy is doing a good job.
Alan Chartock: What I think is that a lot of people think that you were mean back in the old days and then they stopped and said, is he as mean as he sounds, and now that meanness, that concept of meanness has changed dramatically. They like you. They think you have a sense of humor and you know that has changed. Was that conscious or did you just say they didn't really know you?
Governor Cuomo: They didn't know me. What, am I different than I was? I was always funny. You just didn't appreciate my sense of humor. That was you. That wasn't on me. It's now validated and quantified that you were wrong and not appreciating my sense of humor.
Alan Chartock: I do want to apologize for that. Now Tish James, Attorney General Tish James, released a proposal to establish a commission to oversee New York Police Department taking control away from the Mayor. Mayor de Blasio says he doesn't think it would work. What do you think?
Governor Cuomo: The New York City Mayor, Council Speaker, somebody down there who is in an Assembly leadership position, needs to sit down at a table, bring the community in, bring the New York Police Department in, and they have to reimagine, restructure the Police Department. By definition, once you lose respect and trust between the Police Department and the community it doesn't work for either. It is a relationship and what we've heard at very high disciple level is the community saying this doesn't work. We don't trust or respect the police. There is no right or wrong. It's the husband and wife. She says you're a bum. You say she's a bum.
There is no right or wrong. If one of you feels that way it's a problem and community police, you have to put them at the table and you need to work it out and come up with a new plan and a new vision and you need to pass it into law and you need to do it by next April or you're not going to get State funding. The politicians' instinct is to just come up with a modicum of attention. Put in a bill that says no tear gas, no rubber bullets, cut the budget 10 percent. That's not what it is. It's the fundamental relationship. Sit at the table and redesign the Police Department and I think they should take the Attorney General's recommendations into consideration as they do that but it is that fundamental an exercise.
Alan Chartock: The Buffalo News has reported this week that State lawmakers are planning to return to Albany for a second which would be the first July session in a decade and then the word is out that some of the legislators are angry they gave too much power to you, emergency power. How do you handle that?
Governor Cuomo: First of all, there is no word is out. They didn't. They didn't. They came back, the way the emergency power works is I can issue an executive order and they can rescind an executive order whenever they want by a majority vote at the Legislature. I don't sign it. It's all up to them. So there is no emergency power granted. It's a crock. I can do an emergency order because in an emergency you need to do it quickly. You can't go get a piece of legislation to do masks. You can't go get a piece of legislation to do quarantine policy, isolation policy. It's an emergency and everything I've done by the way was by emergency and by the way everything I've done has been fully supported by the people of the state.
You can't say Cuomo has got a 70 percent rating on managing COVID but they don't like what he did on COVID. But the Legislature can revoke any of them. They just were in session and passed bills a couple of weeks ago. They didn't rescind anything. So you know the good government groups which is the greatest scam, you want to talk about a scam, I'm going to put it to you right now.
Alan Chartock: The goo-go groups.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, the goo-go groups. I am a goo-go group. I have a group. It's called the Blessed Citizens of the State of New York for Good Government, okay? And I'm the president of it and I have opinions. I think the emergency powers shouldn't be done. Now I'll tell you who is angry about the emergency powers. The insurance companies are very angry at me because I have them paying for the tests. Some of the big hospitals are very angry at me because I didn't let them do elective surgery, etcetera. So now the good government groups say, oh, revoke the emergency powers, which is how we did everything. But good government groups, who funds you? Who funds you?
You come on the Alan Chartock show, you talk to the public, "I think this. I think this. I think this." Okay, who is paying you? Who pays you? "Well, I can't tell you. I won't tell you." You are a good government group. Transparency, disclosure - who funds you? Do you take money from the insurance companies? Do you take money from the hospitals? Do you take money from the unions? We should know who is paying you so we know how to calibrate your opinion. Maybe your opinion is pro-your funders. They will not disclose who funds them. Can you believe that? I mean it is so incredible to me and, let me give you more heartburn, the press will quote them as a good government group and let them get away with it even though they do not know who they are. You are just a letterhead.
If you won't say who funds you, why should I give you any voice until I know who you represent? "I represent the people." Who pays you? "I won't tell you." By the way, I'm a politician, they want to go through every donor list on the theory that "Oh, you could be influenced by a donor." Right? And they all do their press conference. "Oh, you see he took money from this person. He took money from this person." Why doesn't the same apply to you? You are not a human being? You don't have the same motivation? The way you look at a politician's donor list, why don't you let people look at yours? Who pays you mister head of the good government group? "We can't tell you." Don't be part of the conspiracy.
Alan Chartock: Now, as you know I do worry about you personally and I've asked you many questions towards trying to get straight on some of this stuff. Now, that you have a little more time, are you dating anybody in particular?
Governor Cuomo: No, what happened to the woman who you were recommending?
Alan Chartock: I don't know. I just don't know.
Governor Cuomo: I never heard.
Alan Chartock: Well, I sent a letter on to you. I sent it to your wonderful Senior Press Advisor Rich Azzopardi and I assume he shared it with you. So, that may still be alive. But I am assuming, you know, you are a grown man. What about that? You got anybody?
Governor Cuomo: No, I was going to follow up on your letter. Rich told me you were screening her. That's what he told me.
Alan Chartock: You are not. So, listen, your dad had a bad back, I've got a bad back - do you have a bad back?
Governor Cuomo: I have a bad back, not as bad as his, and it depends on, it's just a litmus test for me, it tells me what shape I'm in. When I get especially tired or something, it all goes to the back, but knock wood, so far, I've been okay with that.
Alan Chartock: You know wherever your father went, he would bring a pad and he would sit on it and it had Excelsior on it, Carpe Diem or Excelsior, and he always left it wherever he was, so we would call and say, "Oh boy, the Governor left his - " and then we figured out he knew exactly what he was doing leaving it in all these places. It was great stuff.
Governor Cuomo: I'd walk into a restaurant in Manhattan, and hanging on the wall is one of his butt boards they were wooden, remember, they were that gold wood with a laminate seal on it.
Alan Chartock: I do remember those - he also had blue ones that were softer.
Governor Cuomo: They were like calling cards. Politicians used to give you a tie clip or a lapel pin, he gave you your own butt board.
Alan Chartock: It's true, okay I've got good two, one minute really - would you like to make a little news in one minute, give us the news, we like the publicity when you do. What don't we know?
Governor Cuomo: Oh, what news. I'm probably going to be traveling out-of-state next week to help another state I could be news.
Alan Chartock: What state?
Governor Cuomo: I don't know yet - I have a number of requests.
Alan Chartock: That's interesting, you know, your dad didn't like to go out of state and you don't like to go away to you, I mean, it's part of the deal.
Governor Cuomo: It's part of the deal, if something happens and I'm not here, that's not a good thing.
Alan Chartock: Well Governor Cuomo, again I've said it before and I'll say it again this is the Doctor speaking and I want you to know that we are who we are delighted to spend this time with us and we don't know why you do it but we hope you keep doing it and thank you so much.
Governor Cuomo: I enjoy it.
Alan Chartock: That's good - does that show us anything?
Governor Cuomo: No. Have a good day. Bye.
This transcript was provided by the office of Gov. Cuomo.