Cuomo aide attempts to clarify bombshell admission in COVID-19 nursing home death probe
Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., reacts to Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing backlash after covering up nursing home deaths.
Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, attempted to walk back an earlier admission that the state withheld COVID-19 nursing home death data on purpose, insisting Friday that the governor's office was "comprehensive and transparent" in responding to records requests from the Trump administration's Justice Department.
On a phone call with New York's Democratic lawmakers on Thursday, DeRosa reportedly said that Cuomo's administration feared the data about COVID-19 deaths could "be used against us" by the Justice Department in the midst of its federal probe initiated against four states regarding nursing home deaths, including New York.
"We were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation," DeRosa told the lawmakers, according to the New York Post, which first reported the information.
But on Friday, DeRosa sought to clarify her comments, saying that she 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."
"We informed the houses of this at the time," DeRosa said in a statement that was posted on Twitter by Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo adviser. "We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.
"As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked. But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic."
The statement did little to quell the anger from Republican lawmakers, some who are now calling for a criminal indictment of Cuomo and top staffers for their mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo on Friday that he would be filing a criminal complaint with local and federal law enforcement for DeRosa's arrest.
DeRosa's bombshell admission also fueled fury over an earlier discovery by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who said in late January that an investigation by her office revealed Cuomo's administration had undercounted the COVID-19 death toll linked to nursing homes by as much as 50%.
On Wednesday, the state revealed the number of deaths was actually 15,049 residents in elder care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living/adult care facilities) -- nearly 10,000 more than the state Health Department was reporting on Jan. 27, 2021 -- according to a letter from the State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent to Senate Democrats.