EDITORIAL: It’s unseemly for a public official to profit from a crisis

Governor's OfficeGov. Andrew Cuomo holds a COVID-19 briefing on Oct. 26.
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Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a COVID-19 briefing on Oct. 26.

There’s no reason anyone shouldn’t be able to make a little side money off their accomplishments by writing a book.

That is, unless you are a current elected official, in the middle of a worldwide health crisis, charged with managing said health crisis, while withholding vital statistics to boost book sales, employing taxpayer-funded staff as “volunteers” to help you make that money, and scheduling major announcements to coincide with the release of unflattering information.

Then-n-n-n, we’ve got a problem.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday revealed he is being paid $5.1 million for the book he authored last year highlighting his handling of the covid crisis.

The entire book deal has come under scrutiny for a number of reasons, including the governor’s decision to withhold accurate figures on covid-related deaths from nursing home admissions for months, apparently in order to deflect criticism and make himself look good for the book release.

State officials are also looking into the potential role that members of Cuomo’s taxpayer-funded staff played in helping him research, edit and compile the book.

The governor has claimed that any work done by his staff on the book was voluntary or incidental. But do you really think if your boss, the governor, asked you to do him a favor, you realistically feel you could refuse without fearing for your job?

During this once-in-a-century event, the governor should have been focusing 100% of his time and attention managing the crisis and state government. He certainly implied that he was.

It’s especially disconcerting that he was trying to profit directly from his duties as governor, in real time, and that the presence of a multi-million-dollar book deal may have influenced some of his decisions as governor— including the decision to withhold the nursing home data.

On top of that, he may have delayed a major announcement on the relaxation of state mask-wearing requirements as a distraction from the book figures.

The federal CDC released its new recommendations on mask wearing protocol last Thursday. But Cuomo waited almost five days to amend New York’s rules —on the same day as the critical book figures were to be released. What a coincidence.

If the governor had any misgivings about his conduct, he would give 100% of the proceeds from this book to the state, or to a fund for healthcare workers, or to a nursing home, or to anything else other than his own bank account and his kids.

The people of New York pay Gov. Cuomo $250,000 a year to lead, not write books.

If he wants to profit from his government service by writing about his covid experiences, let him wait until he’s out of office.

Exploiting a crisis for personal profit while thousands are sick and dying is not the action of a leader.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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