Back in his heyday at the beginning of the pandemic, you couldn’t get enough of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On any given day – morning, noon or night – you could flip on almost any TV channel and see his face and hear him answering reporters’ questions. He once had a streak of 111 straight days of daily press updates.
But these days, his reputation, and his availability to the press, have taken a big hit.
In just the last couple of months, he’s been marred by multiple scandals, ranging from his manipulation of covid nursing home data to multiple allegations of sexual harassment, to his ethically questionable book deal and even the quality of the bolts on the new bridge named after his father.
Cuomo was not always a jovial participant in his daily exchanges with the press. But at least he made himself available and took their questions on a regular basis.
Now, he can go days without making an appearance. When he does hold a “public” event, the portion of the “public” represented by journalists is regularly excluded.
One such event occurred Monday morning, when the governor staged a gathering to announce a new campaign to encourage vaccinations.
The event was closed to the press, with the governor’s office citing “covid restrictions” for not allowing reporters in.
Where were these covid restrictions on reporters when the governor was riding a wave of positive coverage?
At the same event Monday, Cuomo was surrounded by at least 27 supporters who seemed to spend as much time applauding and praising him as they did talking about vaccinations. Covid restrictions didn’t prevent them from attending.
It was oddly reminiscent of those Trump cabinet meetings in which cabinet members took turns trying to top each other’s effusive praise of the president’s performance.
Later in the afternoon, Cuomo held a virtual press conference.
Prior to that, he hadn’t taken questions from the press since March 24.
And when he does hold these virtual press conferences, he regularly fails to call on journalists from the major news organizations responsible for most of the critical reporting.
Monday was no different.
He took just four reporters’ questions, all from regional or internet reporters and nothing of real substance or controversy.
He avoided taking questions from The New York Times, Newsday, the Times Union, New York Post and the entire state capitol press corps.
It is not being transparent when you’re only fielding softballs from a handful of friendly reporters.
Gov. Cuomo is the state’s chief executive and its chief spokesman. The public needs to hear from him, and not just when things are going well.
Hiding behind selectively enforced covid protocols and rigged press availabilities isn’t responsible governing.
The governor needs to come out from behind the curtain and start being accountable again — by holding real press conferences and responding to real, tough questioning.