//Geist Grills Cuomo on COVID Failures, Then Asks if He’ll Be Biden’s AG

Geist Grills Cuomo on COVID Failures, Then Asks if He’ll Be Biden’s AG

Viewers of Monday morning’s Today show could be forgiven if they experienced whiplash while watching fill-in co-host Willie Geist interview New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the anchor did repeatedly press the Democrat on his major failures in responding to the coronavirus, Geist wrapped up the exchange by wondering if Cuomo would accept a promotion to Attorney General of the United States if Joe Biden were to win the White House.

With Cuomo on to laughably attempt to sell a book offering “leadership lessons” and advice on how to combat COVID-19, Geist rightfully pressed: “Can you see why a lot of people think if you say we’re in the halftime of this, that writing a book, a retrospective in the middle of it, sort of celebrating the things that you did right, feels off and strange given what may be ahead?”

 

 

Cuomo attempted to argue that he wasn’t taking an unseemly and premature victory lap: “No. Willie, it’s not a celebration at all. The game isn’t over, it is halftime….if we don’t learn the lessons, the second half is going to be worse.”

In his follow-up, Geist directed Cuomo’s own words back at him by asking about the Governor’s catastrophic decision to force elderly COVID patients back into nursing homes, which cost thousands of lives in the hard-hit state: “So with 33,000, nearly, people dead in the state of New York, what have you learned, as you write about in the book, about the early stages, that you can apply to later? For example, was it a mistake to send those COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes?”

Cuomo desperately attempted to dodge the subject by passing blame: “Yeah, here’s the first lesson for this nation, Willie. How did you not know the virus was coming to the United States? They call it the China virus, it wasn’t the China virus, it was the European virus….The President banned China travel January 29th – ”

Geist cut him off: “But Governor, did you make any mistakes in this process? You’re talking about the federal government. What about you?” Cuomo finally admitted to one mistake, but never addressed the deadly nursing home disaster:

Oh, yes. Yes. That was the first point, was the federal government missed it coming here. Second, we were the first state to do a mask mandate, Willie, I should have done it earlier. The experts were saying the masks didn’t work, common sense said the masks would work. And I should have done that earlier.

After going through Cuomo’s failures as a leader, Geist oddly decided to conclude the interview by asking if the Governor should be rewarded for his incompetence:

I’ve got one more question for you quickly before we go. There’s an Axios report this morning that says the Biden campaign is looking very carefully at you as a potential candidate to become attorney general if Joe Biden wins this election. Your adviser was adamant in his denial. But if your old friend Joe Biden came to you, if he were elected, and said, “Governor, I’d like you to be my attorney general,” you would say what?

Cuomo demurred, claiming, “those rumors, Willie, those are only from people who want to get me out of New York.” Geist persisted: “So you would say no, you would not accept the attorney general job?” Cuomo claimed: “I have no interest in going into Washington.”

While Geist at least managed to put tough questions to Cuomo about his mishandling of the coronavirus, during a fawning profile on CBS Sunday Morning that gushed over the Democrat’s dating life, correspondent Tracy Smith failed to even mention the nursing home debacle. The only challenging questions she threw at him during the eight and a half minute segment were these:

Do you see how some people say this is you taking a victory lap in the middle of a pandemic?…There are people out there saying, “Wait a minute, why is he setting himself up as the guy who did everything right?” New York still has the largest number of deaths of any state.

The largely gooey puff piece on CBS was brought to viewers by Home Depot and Honda. You can fight back by letting these advertisers know what you think of them sponsoring such content.

It has sadly become a rare and noteworthy occasion when anyone in the press asks Cuomo anything even mildly tough. Even so, reporters are still ready to see him in a cabinet position in a potential Biden administration.

Here is a full transcript of Geist’s October 12 interview with Cuomo:

8:14 AM ET

WILLIE GEIST: Joining us now is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He has a new book out this week called American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic. Governor Cuomo, good morning, it’s good to have you with us. We’ll talk about the book in just a moment. But we want to first ask you about the state of affairs here in New York, we know that hospitalizations are rising. New York, after that March, April, and May we suffered through, got its arms around coronavirus. But it does look like we’re heading into a fall and winter where people are worried about what’s coming ahead. So how are you looking at this next period, as governor?

ANDREW CUOMO: Yeah, thank you, good morning, Willie. We are coming into a fall and people should be worried. The experts all along have been telling us in the fall the flu comes back, people go indoors, schools open, so you should look for a rise. In New York we’re doing something different. Overall, the New York situation is very, very good. We’re about a 1% infection rate, which is one of the lowest rates in the United States of America.

We do a tremendous amount of testing. We do more testing in one day than most states do in a week. So we can target very small clusters, we call them, where cases are starting. And then we attack those clusters. That’s what we’re doing right now. We have a cluster in Brooklyn and in queens primarily. Which is primarily a Hasidic Jewish community that doesn’t want to accept the social distancing rules, et cetera. So it’s about 2% of the population. But we’re focusing on that 2%. And we need the ability to focus on these small clusters now, because if you don’t catch a cluster, then it becomes a contagion.

GEIST: Governor, as you know, there are a lot of people in this city and this state, as someone who lives in New York and works in New York and has kids in school in New York, who believe it’s almost inevitable that things will shut down again because of what we’ve heard from public health experts about the fall and the winter. Are you preparing for the possibility of another shutdown?

CUOMO: No, I’m not there yet, Willie. I don’t believe it’s inevitable. I believe it’s possible. I don’t believe it’s inevitable. I think we have to get smarter as a country, we have to get smarter as states. We’re dealing with a virus. We have to use the science and get more sophisticated. And that’s where we are in New York. Look, we’re closing down areas that are about one or two square miles, right? These are tiny areas. But we have that kind of data. And if you can target that way and close down small areas, then it’s not inevitable that the spread gets so large that you would have to close down an entire city or a state.

GEIST: So, Governor, let’s talk –

CUOMO: But get smart is the point, Willie.

GEIST: Yeah. Let’s talk about the book, American Crisis. I want to talk about some of the details of it, but just broadly the idea of it. Can you see why a lot of people think if you say we’re in the halftime of this, that writing a book, a retrospective in the middle of it, sort of celebrating the things that you did right, feels off and strange given what may be ahead?

CUOMO: No. Willie, it’s not a celebration at all. The game isn’t over, it is halftime. We didn’t lose, it’s only halftime. And we had some success. But we are also making a lot of mistakes. And  when we go into the locker room, as a nation, and we talk about the first half, we better learn. Because if we don’t learn the lessons, the second half is going to be worse. I can tell you that. We have to stop the denial. We have to stop the politics. We have to stop the partisanship. We’re dealing with a virus, the virus doesn’t respond to politics. We’re seven months into this. The President has a Rose Garden ceremony, gets COVID, comes out and says that was no big deal. I mean, it’s incredible how little we have learned in seven months. And we have to get smarter and we have to get better.

GEIST: So with 33,000, nearly, people dead in the state of New York, what have you learned, as you write about in the book, about the early stages, that you can apply to later? For example, was it a mistake to send those COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes?

CUOMO: Yeah, here’s the first lesson for this nation, Willie. How did you not know the virus was coming to the United States? They call it the China virus, it wasn’t the China virus, it was the European virus. You had SARS, you had MERS, you had Ebola, you had Dengue. How did you not have a medical watchdog system? Where was the CDC? Where was the Department of Homeland Security? The reason New York’s numbers were so high was because the virus was coming here for months undetected. It moved from China to Europe and then flights were coming from Europe. The President banned China travel January 29th –  

GEIST: But Governor, did you make any mistakes in this process? You’re talking about the federal government. What about you?

CUOMO: Oh, yes. Yes. That was the first point, was the federal government missed it coming here. Second, we were the first state to do a mask mandate, Willie, I should have done it earlier. The experts were saying the masks didn’t work, common sense said the masks would work. And I should have done that earlier. Testing, we got testing up as fast as we could. In retrospect, we should have understood that some virus like this would come back after MERS and SARS and had more sophistication for testing. That it took this nation seven months to come up with a real testing regimen, and we’re still not doing it, that was a mistake.

GEIST: I’ve got one more question for you quickly before we go. There’s an Axios report this morning that says the Biden campaign is looking very carefully at you as a potential candidate to become attorney general if Joe Biden wins this election. Your adviser was adamant in his denial. But if your old friend Joe Biden came to you, if he were elected, and said, “Governor, I’d like you to be my attorney general,” you would say what?

CUOMO: I would say, “You are an old friend, you are a good friend. You’re going to win this election, you’re going to be the president. I’ll help you any way I can.” I’m a New Yorker, I said I would serve as governor. And those rumors, Willie, those are only from people who want to get me out of New York. I don’t know why, but that’s where that’s coming from.

GEIST: So you would say no, you would not accept the attorney general job?

CUOMO: I have no interest in going into Washington. I said when this COVID situation started, just so I had total credibility with the people of the state, “I’m not running for president, I’m not running for vice president. I don’t want to go to Washington. I just am giving you the straight advice, as your governor,” and that’s where I am.

GEIST: Alright. Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you for your time this morning. The book is called American Crisis.   

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