House GOP lawmakers grill ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over COVID nursing home deaths

Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a tough grilling from House GOP lawmakers Tuesday over his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes during the height of the pandemic. 

Cuomo visited Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the House select subcommittee investigating the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lawmakers homed in on a March 25, 2020, executive order by the then-governor that restricted nursing homes from refusing to admit or readmit residents “solely based on confirmed or suspect[ed] diagnosis of COVID-19.” 

A report released in March 2022 by the New York State comptroller found that Cuomo’s Health Department “was not transparent in its reporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes” and it “understated the number of deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50%” during some points of the pandemic.


Rep. Brad Wenstrup, chairman of the COVID-19 select subcommittee, grilled former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo behind closed doors Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Cuomo has pushed back on these claims, insisting that New York’s health department was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance issued by the Trump administration before Cuomo’s order. 

andrew cuomo

A report released in March 2022 by the New York State comptroller found that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Health Department “was not transparent in its reporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.” (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

In his opening remarks, Cuomo said “any serious review must stop asking political questions and start asking fact-based ones.” He pointed out that New York was “number 39 in terms of pro rata nursing home deaths [despite the state] being ground zero for COVID.” 

He also accused the Trump administration of targeting democratic states “despite both red and blue states issuing” the same guidelines. 

GOP lawmakers held a post-hearing press conference in which they accused Cuomo of deflecting blame. 


“I felt like the governor was defensive throughout most of the day, often putting blame on other people rather than himself. [He] didn’t seem to be taking a lot of responsibility for the things that were happening,” Chair Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, said. 

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., called Cuomo a “phony” and a “fraud” who “put our most vulnerable population at risk, resulting in the death of over 15,000 seniors.” 

“And it was Andrew Cuomo who covered it up. It wasn’t just the directive which was bad enough and idiotic and resulted in the death of the 15,000 plus seniors. It was Andrew Cuomo, for political purposes, who directed the state government to cover up the death toll,” he said. 


FILE: Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of mishandling his state’s response to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

GOP conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said today’s deposition “was a step in delivering accountability and delivering long overdue answers to those families who are still mourning the loss of their loved ones.” 

Speaking to reporters after the deposition, Cuomo said the federal government was ultimately to blame for the severity of the pandemic. 

“We have two very different opinions on what happened during COVID. I think the federal government failed this nation. And it was abysmal. How did COVID get to the U.S. in December and nobody knew? How did it take so many months before we had… basic testing in place? How did we have a president running around, saying, ‘it’s going to be gone when the weather gets warm?’ Who then admits to a reporter, that he purposely downplayed it?” Cuomo told a reporter. 

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, told Fox News Digital that the governor “presented fact-based evidence that New York, at the end of the day, was the 39th state for pro rata in nursing home deaths in 2020 – despite the fact that it started off the hardest hit.” 

“We worked day and night to protect New Yorkers and save lives even though the ‘experts’ kept changing the facts on the ground. We were grappling with international PPE shortages and no national response,” Azzopardi said. “The fact that this partisan farce was allowed to go on, and they continue telling their fact-less stories – especially in order to help their marginal members who weren’t even at the hearing tells you what a joke this was.” 

Wenstrup subpoenaed Cuomo in March to appear before his committee. A letter accompanying the subpoena said Cuomo’s testimony “is vital to our investigation into the effectiveness of federal guidance and regulations implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the protection of nursing home residents.”


“Further, this investigation may inform legislation to enhance the federal scientific guidance process, including the drafting, publication, and implementation of guidances originating from CMS or CDC,” the letter said.

Fox News Digital’s Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.

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