“Mr. Kim is lying”: Cuomo aide says state Democratic lawmaker made up threat by governor to “destroy” him

CNN offering ‘convenient’ excuse for Chris Cuomo conflict of interest: Kurtz

CNN is facing criticism for their reluctance to address Democrat scandals including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of New York nursing home deaths during COVID-19.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday accused Democratic State Assemblyman Ron Kim of lying to the media about what transpired during a heated phone call last week in which the governor allegedly threatened to “destroy” Kim over his remarks on the state’s nursing home scandal.

Kim said Cuomo made the threat hours after the New York Post reported one of the governor’s top aides admitted during a private call that his administration withheld data because they worried it could be “used against us” in a federal probe. In response to the report last Thursday, Kim said the aide’s remarks sounded “like they admitted that they were trying to dodge having any incriminating evidence.”

Hours after Kim’s comment was published, the assemblyman received a phone call from Cuomo, who reportedly threatened to tarnish his reputation unless he walked back the claim in a new statement. But Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo, said Kim is “lying” about the conversation.

“Mr. Kim is lying about his conversation with Governor Cuomo Thursday night. I know because I was one of three other people in the room when the phone call occurred,” Azzopardi said. “At no time did anyone threaten to ‘destroy’ anyone with their ‘wrath’ nor engage in a ‘coverup.’ That’s beyond the pale and is unfortunately part of a years-long pattern of lies by Mr. Kim against this administration.”

“We did ask for Mr. Kim to do the honorable thing and put out a truthful statement after he told the Governor he was misquoted in a news article, which he said he tried to correct but the reporter refused,” Azzopardi added. “Kim said he would correct the story and then broke his word. No surprise. Instead over the last six days he has baselessly accused this administration of pay to play and obstruction of justice.”

Kim is an outspoken critic of the state’s handling of the nursing home crisis whose uncle is presumed to have died of COVID-19 in a long-term care facility. The assemblyman gave his account of the phone call with Cuomo in an interview with the New York Post.

“At first, there was a silence on the phone,” Kim told the New York Post. “Then the governor says, `Mr. Kim, are you an honorable man?”

“I can tell the whole world what a bad person you are and you will be finished,” Cuomo reportedly said during the call. “You will be destroyed.”

“After that call, we were devastated. My wife didn’t sleep at all,” Kim told the Post.

Cuomo has faced calls to resign in recent days in response to the Post’s report on his aide’s remarks and a separate report from the Associated Press that New York had significantly underreported the number of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes. Melissa DeRosa, the Cuomo aide who admitted the administration withheld data, later said that she was “was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first.”

In a press conference earlier this week, Cuomo took responsibility for failing to report data sooner, asserting the delay “created a void” for “conspiracy theories,” but he reiterated his stance that all data was accurately reported.

The governor said his office informed state legislatures that their request for relevant data was “paused” while his administration worked to fulfill a similar request from the Justice Department. Several state Democratic lawmakers rejected Cuomo’s explanation.

Melissa DeRosa, the Cuomo aide who admitted the administration withheld data, later said that she was “was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature’s request to deal with the federal request first.”

A number of lawmakers have called for Cuomo to lose his emergency powers due to the nursing home scandal. Kim was one of nine Democrats in the New York State Assembly who signed a letter this week accusing Cuomo of “intentional obstruction of justice.”

In a conference call earlier Wednesday, Cuomo said Kim had told him he was misquoted in the New York Post’s report. Cuomo added that his administration has had a “long and hostile relationship” with the assemblyman, dating back to a clash related to a 2015 law designed to protect the rights of nail salon workers. Kim helped to craft the law, but later reversed course and fought against it with the backing of business owners.

Cuomo accused Kim of participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme where he solicited donations from nail salon owners in order to oppose the law.

“I believe it was unethical if not illegal,” Cuomo said during the call. “And I believe it’s a continuing racket because he’s still doing it.”

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Kim said Cuomo called him several more times last weekend, but he did not answer the phone. The assemblyman has denied the claim that he told Cuomo he was misquoted.

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