ANDREW Cuomo's aides were hiding Covid-19 related deaths in nursing homes as the New York governor was trying to secure a $4 million book deal, according to a report.
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo's top aide, attended video meetings with publishers and helped him edit early drafts of the book in which Cuomo proclaims himself the leader of the then hardest-hit state in the early months of the pandemic.
It was during this time when an upcoming Health Department report was going to disclose the actual number of nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus.
With DeRosa and other Cuomo aides expressing concern over the higher death toll, the number was removed from the final version of the report.
Cuomo has for months claimed he hid the actual number of nursing home deaths from the public to avoid blowback from the federal government at a time when Cuomo says the country lacked a leader, under then-President Trump.
However, the New York Times reports Cuomo was expecting to receive a book deal of at least $4 million, according to people close to the book bidding process.
The Times investigated Cuomo's book deal with how it overlapped his senior aides' move to remove the total death toll – which would have been the second sentence of the Health Department report.
Cuomo even had his staff look over the book, with top aide Stephanie Benton asking assistants in June and July to print out portions of the manuscript and deliver them to Cuomo at the governor's mansion.
Benton's June 27 request was the same day that DeRosa joined a teleconference with other advisers to discuss the Health Department report.
Cuomo's office claims the book deal and report occuring on similar timelines was just pure coincidence.
"There is no connection between the report and this outside project, period," Cuomo advisor Richard Azzopardi said. "And any suggestion otherwise is just wrong."
Cuomo's book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic," earned the governor a spot on the best-seller list.
The book details his courageous effort in clamping down on the coronavirus pandemic in New York, where close to 50,000 people have since died.
The Times obtained emails and a draft of Cuomo's book indicating he was writing it as early as June and often relied on his trusted aides and even junior staff to conduct work on the book.
This could bring into question Cuomo's skirting of state laws prohibiting the use of public resources for personal gain.
In one instance, an aide to the governor anonymously told the Times that she and others were asked to type or transfer notes for Cuomo's book – which he made sometimes by dictating into a cell phone.
"Sorry lady can u print this too and put in a binder," Benton wrote to another female staffer on July 5.
"And drop at mansion," ended the note. July 5 was a Sunday.
DeRosa herself was rather involved in Cuomo's publishing duties: the July 5 request was to print a 224-page draft called "MDR edits."
DeRosa sent Benton the draft a day earlier to print out.
However, Azzopardi said both "volunteered on this project," which he added was perfectly "permissible and consistent with ethical requirements" regarding politics within the state.
More to follow…
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