A New York State lawmaker said Thursday that the legislature’s impeachment investigation into embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will also examine reports of the governor providing special access to coronavirus tests to family members at the beginning of the pandemic.
New York Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Lavine made the revelation in a statement to the Associated Press. The impeachment probe will primarily focus on allegations of Cuomo covering up data regarding the numbers of nursing home deaths during the pandemic and sexual harassment accusations brought forth by multiple women, including current and former staffers.
On Wednesday, the Times-Union reported that Cuomo directed state health officials to “prioritize” testing for members of his family, including his mother, Matilda Cuomo, and brother, primetime host CNN Chris Cuomo. Further, the governor and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker requested state Department of Health officials to prioritize testing for influential individuals with ties to the Cuomo administration, said the Albany-based newspaper. In a separate report, the Washington Post noted that the results of prioritized tests were immediately processed at a state lab.
Chris Cuomo announced in March 2020 that he had contracted the virus, later telling the Associated Press in an interview: “I knew it was just a matter of time, to be honest, because of how often I was exposed to people.” The Post reports that a top New York Department of Health doctor visited the CNN host at his Hamptons residence to obtain test samples from him.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi downplayed the seriousness of the reports, saying: “We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past. In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a heavy emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people testing.”
CNN spokesperson Matt Dornic said of the reports:
We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo’s fellow Democrat, issued a statement earlier Thursday urging New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate the alleged preferential testing after reports were published in the Times Union of Albany, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
“The recent reports alleging there was preferential treatment given for COVID-19 testing are troubling,” the statement read. “While we do not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter, it’s imperative that JCOPE look into it immediately.”
A spokesperson for the ethics commission, Walt McClure, said the commission could not comment “on anything that is or might be an investigative matter.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.