Statement from Senior Advisor to the Governor Rich Azzopardi
“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. 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. 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. These continued falsehoods are why the Governor chose to speak out today. We will not allow an unscrupulous politician to deceive New Yorkers or distort the truth. Mr. Kim’s current statements do not even align with the comments he made at the meeting (see below). He is without credibility as his own words demonstrate. Lies have caused families grieving from COVID enough pain. We understand it is our obligation to correct misstatements so families understand the true facts during COVID.
“Mr. Kim and the Governor’s office have had a long, hostile relationship. The animosity initiated when Mr. Kim supported a bill protecting nail salon workers only to do a 180 degree reversal after he received significant funding from the owners of the nail salons. He was criticized by good government groups at the time and the Governor’s office called his actions into question. Mr. Kim continues to receive funding from nail salon owners and continues his attempts to remove the protections for nail salon workers. It is an ongoing unethical situation with Kim receiving funding from owners attempting to stop our efforts to protect victimized nail salon workers. We believe Kim’s continuing pay-to-play actions are at a minimum unethical and when and if investigated will prove to be illegal. To be clear, neither the Governor nor his aides threatened any legislators and in fact, the meeting in questions was considered positive by those who attended. It is the distortions of the meeting by those with different agendas that we object to.
“On the merits Mr. Kim and the NY Post and republicans argue that the state’s March 25th order on nursing homes was bad policy. What they fail to mention is the state was following federal policy and if the Post and republicans want to play a political blame game, they should blame Donald Trump and they should have blamed Donald Trump’s since last March 25th when they promulgated the guidance. We will stick to the facts.
“Dr. Zucker does not believe the March 25th order was wrong. Even with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, health experts do not believe it was wrong. We believe it saved lives and the facts demonstrate that. If, with the advantage of hindsight, we concluded the March 25th order was wrong, Commissioner Howard Zucker would admit that and we would take action against the federal government for malpractice in issuing flawed guidance. COVID was already in the nursing homes by the time March 25th arrived. That is a proven fact. Hospital beds were critical. And that is a proven fact. People needed hospital beds with ventilators and critical care nursing staff to save their lives. We provided that. Unlike other states and countries our hospital system was not overwhelmed and we went from the highest infect rate to the lowest and saved lives. That is the irrefutable truth.
“We do agree that we did not provide enough public information quickly enough which created a void for conspiracy theories to flourish. We accept responsibility for creating the void and in a perfect world, the conspiracy theorists would accept responsibility also. In a more perfect world the conspiracy theorists would stop playing politics and negatively effecting the grieving families who lost loved ones in nursing homes. Obviously in this toxic political environment, it is not a perfect world.”
A rush transcript of a portion of Assemblyman Kim’s comments made during a Zoom conference call with state legislators is below:
Assemblyman Kim: You should definitely go through. I just gotta hop off, I’m sorry, but just to summarize, I think I’m gonna go through the questions, Commissioner and Ms. DeRosa, I’ll probably have some follow up with them as well. But just moving forward, I think the public just wants to get past this. Commissioner when you, when you came to see us in the Assembly chamber last year, and you wanted to expand the Governor’s powers and we asked for $40 million to get ahead of the coronavirus, many of my colleagues did not want to do that, they did not want to give the Governor those powers. I was one of the few ones that stood up for the Governor. And so it’s this is not about whether you personally like him or not like him. This is a moment that we need to cheer him on, but we need to get behind this executive, because everyone is scared and everyone wants someone to step in and do this right, and I had a lot of faith that we were going to get it right. But over the last few months I think we did lose a lot of trust. Because of lack of communication, for the lack of that, I know we went through all the reasons why. And I just want to get past this. I want to move forward. And I want to get solutions, and I know that we touched on a few items but before I leave, I mean if we can just follow up. Legal immunity, a possible sort of compensation funds for the victims, a structure, some of civil framework a discussion around that. The ombudsman program, someone just mentioned it. I know that Senator May has been passionately talking about giving that some teeth, so they actually have the power to do their jobs. The increasing penalties was just mentioned, and some sort of a recognition, and maybe an apology for the March 25. I know this is something that is a sensitive issue, and no one wants to talk about it, but I think the families, the public I think just recognize, appreciate some sort of honesty, but just, just the recognition of their pain, and I think some sort of contriteness from the Administration would go a very long way. So that’s all I have for today, I really appreciate your time, I know you’re all very busy. Thank you so much and I’ll follow up with other questions. Thank you.