Things are looking worse by the hour for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Recently, a fourth, and then a fifth, woman came forward to accuse him of inappropriate behavior. At that point, Cuomo's support among top Democrats in New York began to crumble -- apparently, some were okay with three accusers, but not with four or five.
First, the leader of the New York State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, demanded the governor's resignation. "We need to govern without daily distraction," Stewart-Cousins said. "Gov. Cuomo must resign." Then the leader of the State Assembly, Carl Heastie, suggested Cuomo should quit when he said the governor should "seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York."
Cuomo had a simple answer: No. "I'm not going to resign because of allegations," Cuomo said in response to Stewart-Cousins and Heastie, who are, of course, both Democrats. "There is no way I resign."
And who is going to make him? It's unclear what kind of pressure would force Cuomo out. If he resists the conventional kind -- politicians of his own party calling on him to quit -- then the legislature can remove him. New York's impeachment process is roughly similar to the impeachment process for the president of the United States laid out in the Constitution. Like a federal impeachment, removing Cuomo would be an arduous task.
So the question is whether Cuomo can do a Ralph Northam. Remember, he is the governor of Virginia who was mired in scandal when, in January 2019, a photo surfaced of him in blackface, at a party years before, when he was in medical school. The calls for Northam's resignation were intense, but he just didn't do it. He just said no. And no one made him. Northam remains in office today.
Yes, the Northam and Cuomo cases are different. For one thing, the politicians who would have succeeded Northam, Virginia's Democratic lieutenant governor and attorney general, were also beset by scandal, making Northam's departure less appealing to Democrats. In New York, the person who would succeed Cuomo, Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, is scandal-free and ready to go. So it would actually be more politically palatable to Democrats to remove Cuomo than Northam. But in any event, Cuomo is digging in.
Meanwhile, here is the thing that blows Republican minds: Cuomo might go down because of his #MeToo problem, and not because of his horrendous mishandling of the COVID crisis. Remember that Cuomo presided over one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus in the world. Lives were lost by the thousands.
The problem is not just Cuomo's efforts to hide the number of nursing home COVID deaths after he had recklessly forced the homes to accept COVID patients -- although that seems bad enough to force a governor to resign. It's also Cuomo's handling of the virus in the early days of the pandemic.
In April 2020, the New York Times reported on the process by which Cuomo came to order a statewide lockdown. New York officials had been closely watching events in California. On March 19, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a lockdown. At that moment, California had 675 confirmed COVID cases, according to the Times. At that time, the Times reported, New York State had 4,152 cases. Still, Cuomo resisted a shutdown. He dragged his feet. There was an overnight debate with top aides. Finally, the next day, Cuomo ordered the shutdown. "By that point, March 20, [New York] had more than 7,000 confirmed cases," the Times said. The virus went on to ravage the state.
Together with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio -- the two were often at each others' throats -- Cuomo tragically mismanaged the COVID outbreak. Today, according to the website Worldometers, New York has suffered 2,497 deaths per million population, while California has suffered 1,372 deaths per million. The toll has been terrible around the country, but as far as states are concerned, only New Jersey's death toll, 2,654 per million, is worse than Cuomo's New York.
But Cuomo bragged about what a great job he did. And Democrats and their allies in the media celebrated him as a model of how to fight the virus, making Cuomo a hero while they trashed then-President Donald Trump day after day. In an act of chutzpah difficult to fathom even today, in mid-pandemic Cuomo wrote a book about his "success" in handling the virus, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic." Then Cuomo received an International Emmy for his "masterful" briefings on the virus.
And then came the nursing home revelations. Last week, the Times published a story headlined, "Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll." Thousands of New Yorkers whose loved ones died in the pandemic wondered if Cuomo had told the truth about the circumstances of the deaths. He hadn't.
Cuomo's COVID disaster was a matter of life and death. Nothing could be more serious. And yet, it was apparently not enough for New York Democrats to call for his resignation -- until the #MeToo allegations began. Now, he must go, some Democrats say. The whole situation has left some on the right understandably baffled about political priorities in New York State.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.