Benjamin Norman/The New York Times

Gov. Andrew Cuomo finds himself buried in scandal.

March 18, 2021

Cuomo Confronted With Scandal, Reed Considers Potential Run

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s dual scandals, being accused of falsifying data regarding nursing home COVID deaths and claims of sexual misconduct, have student leaders echoing widespread calls for his resignation — but they’re not the only ones taking note of the governor’s stunning fall from stardom: Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) is preparing a potential run for the governorship.   

As of Wednesday, at least six women have publicly come forward with sexual misconduct accusations against the governor, and despite bipartisan calls for his resignation, Cuomo has declined to bow to what he called “cancel culture.” 

The governor also faces a second crisis: his administration is accused of purposely underreporting nursing home fatality data. A Jan. 28 report from the State Attorney General detailed significant obfuscation of nursing home deaths by the state, and subsequent reporting from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal revealed Cuomo’s aides — including his secretary, Melissa DeRosa ’04 MPA ’09— acted with political motive rewriting the data from the State Health Department. 

Nearly every member of New York’s congressional delegation — including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — has called for Cuomo’s resignation. 

Locally, Ithaca’s New York State Assemblywoman Anna Kelles (D-125th District) asked Cuomo to step down in a statement released on March 11th with over 55 other New York legislators. State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-58th District) also called for Cuomo’s resignation.

Joseph Mullen ’24, a 2020 Democratic National Convention delegate and member of Cornell Progressives, said that most members of the club agreed that Cuomo should resign. When reached for comment, the group directed The Sun to Mullen.

“It’s clear that on the left, we have to hold our leaders accountable,” he said, lambasting Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct, data cover-up and campaign to pressure state officials for political support.

“That’s authoritarian behavior that we condemn when it comes from the right. And so we have to condemn it if it’s coming from a Democrat as well,” Mullen said. 

The Cornell Democrats also support calls for the governor’s resignation, according to political director Logan Morales ’22 — a decision that is in line with The College Democrats of New York

“Any of these allegations is an automatic disqualifier,” Morales said. 

Reed, who has long questioned Cuomo’s nursing home order, slammed the “power hungry” governor as someone who leads by intimidation. He doubted that Cuomo would resign, citing his “ego.”

“I don’t see resignation as something he’s capable of doing,” Reed said.

Reed may take his criticism of Cuomo to the campaign trail. Along with a slate of other New York Republicans — including Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — Reed told The Sun he is continuing to build resources to prepare for a potential run for New York governor. 

“We are getting to that point where we are going to make some decisions on that,” Reed said in a Tuesday interview. “What we have to do is just make sure that we all are on the same page, that at the end of the day no one wins … if they go through a lengthy drawn-out primary battle.”

Even with an imperiled governor, a Republican’s chances at the governorship would be slim. No Republican has won statewide office since 2002, when former Gov. George Pataki, often categorized as a moderate Republican, was re-elected to his third term. 

While Reed co-chairs a 56-member congressional caucus staked in finding bi-partisan policy outcomes , Tompkins County officials and Ithacans alike have criticized him for his policy positions. Reed co-chaired former President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election committee in New York State.  

Unlike Reed and other student political organizations, the Cornell Republicans have not yet issued a stance on the governor’s potential resignation. In a statement, Weston Barker ’21, the group’s president, endorsed a full investigation of both the sexual harassment allegations and the nursing home data before any disciplinary measures are taken. 

“Now is the time for all accusing parties to be heard,” Barker wrote. 

New York State Attorney General Letitia James named a team of lawyers to lead an investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Lawmakers in the State Assembly opened an impeachment inquiry last Thursday into both Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct and political cover-up of nursing home deaths. Unlike federal impeachment proceedings, the governor would be immediately sidelined if the State Assembly were to impeach him, pending acquittal in the State Senate. 

With multiple ongoing state and federal investigations, it appears unlikely that the three-term governor will have a path to reelection in 2022, leaving an open field for candidates across the political spectrum.