After being hailed as a hero for much of last year, the man once held up as the anti-Donald Trump is now being savaged by his own party.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval ratings have plummeted as anger grows over his administration’s handling of the coronavirus in nursing homes.
The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion survey of 953 adults between February 15 and 17 saw Mr Cuomo’s approval rating dip below 50 per cent.
Forty-nine per cent said they approved of the job he was doing while 44 per cent disapproved.
That’s down from the 66 per cent approval rating the third-term Governor reached in July last year, while the number who approve of his handling of the pandemic has also plunged from 72 per cent in July to 54 per cent.
“Should Cuomo decide to seek a fourth term, these results suggest it will be a challenge. That said, his current numbers are comparable to what they were when he faced the voters last time.”
After being feted by the media throughout much of last year – where his daily, Emmy Award-winning press briefings boosted his popularity and even led to calls for him to run against President Donald Trump – the shine has well and truly come off the 63-year-old’s political star after a series of explosive revelations in recent weeks.
The roots of the scandal trace back to March last year, when the Cuomo administration issued a controversial order requiring nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients discharged from hospitals.
More than 6000 people with the virus had been admitted to nursing homes across the state by the time the order was rescinded two months later.
New York nursing homes were ravaged by the virus, with official figures – revised upwards after a damning report issued by Attorney-General Letitia James last month alleged the Cuomo administration had deliberately undercounted the deaths by 50 per cent – putting the total number of lives lost at more than 13,000.
Mr Cuomo has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Addressing a media conference last week, he refused to apologise for the deaths, saying only he was sorry for not providing “public information fast enough”.
“This creates a void, and conspiracy theories and politics and rumours fill that void, and you can’t allow inaccurate information to go unanswered,” he said.
“We were busy. We were doing our job, we were trying to save lives. No excuses. I was not aggressive enough in knocking down the falsities.”
But Democrats have now begun to turn on Mr Cuomo, who is facing calls for an investigation into his administration’s alleged cover-up of the nursing home deaths, and a push to strip away his emergency powers.
The Marist Poll published on Tuesday, which came on the heels of a bombshell report by the New York Post that Mr Cuomo’s top aide privately admitted the administration withheld data on nursing home deaths out of fear of a federal investigation, notably found that 28 per cent of Democrats now disapprove of his job performance, compared with just 9 per cent in July.
The poll also found 60 per cent of New Yorkers believed he had done something wrong in his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.
Forty-one per cent of respondents agreed that Mr Cuomo had done something unethical, while a further 19 per cent went further and said he had done something illegal.
Last week, it was reported that both the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had started investigations into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing home data.
That news came amid a bipartisan push for a “full investigation” from members of the state legislature, including several Democrats.
High-profile Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a federal district in New York, added her voice to that push.
“I support our state’s return to coequal governance, and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.
“Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership.”
That came after Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim, who has been outspoken after his uncle died from the virus in a nursing home, said he had been verbally abused in a late-night phone call by Mr Cuomo, who allegedly threatened to “destroy” him.
Responding to the Marist survey, Mr Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told The Wall Street Journal that results varied, and that two other recent polls put his approval rating above 50 per cent.
“We remain focused on fighting this pandemic, administering as many vaccines as possible, and safely and smartly reopening our state,” he said.
– With Sam Clench