Gov. Gavin Newsom can take some comfort from the fact that his French Laundry dinner with lobbyists is no longer the most embarrassing moment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That distinction now belongs to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is facing calls to revoke the Emmy it awarded to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In November, the TV Academy presented Cuomo with the International Emmy Founders Award “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his masterful use of TV to inform and calm people around the world.”
The Academy members were entranced by Cuomo’s daily press briefings, 111 of them, each one a TV show “with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure,” according to Bruce Paisner, president and CEO of the International Academy.
In case the viewing public was confused about why a politician was receiving an Emmy award, the Academy showed a video of celebrity New Yorkers fawning over the governor’s “New York tough” management of the pandemic.
“New York was suffering, we were the epicenter, we were all in a crisis, in a panic,” said Rosie Perez, “and every single day you came on the airwaves and you offered your strength, your leadership, and your direction and your caring and your heart.”
“In the darkest days of the pandemic, your daily briefings ‘Live from New York’ gave us hope, gave us clarity, gave us truth,” said Billy Crystal, “and gave us something that we were not getting from Washington. Leadership.”
It turns out that while stars were swooning over Cuomo’s TV shows, Washington was trying to investigate the appalling death toll in the state’s nursing homes. The New York Post reported last week that Cuomo’s top aide, secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa, told state Democratic leaders during a video conference call that the governor’s office had withheld the state’s nursing home data from lawmakers who requested it in August because President Trump had begun publicly attacking some governors over the issue, and then Trump “directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us.”
DeRosa told lawmakers on the call, “basically, we froze.”
Today, both Democrats and Republicans in New York are calling for actions ranging from an investigation of the governor to a prosecution for obstruction of justice.
Cuomo’s actions drew sharp criticism in a recent state report that pointed out the dramatic undercounting of deaths of nursing home residents. It turns out that the horrifying statistics were actually twice as bad, because the residents who were taken to hospitals and died there were not counted as nursing home deaths.
Cuomo asserted that it didn’t make any difference, but that’s self-serving. The issue is how well the state protected the vulnerable residents of nursing homes. People who contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home and died from it might be alive today but for Cuomo’s directive last March that ordered thousands of seniors with coronavirus infections back into nursing homes, assisted-living and long-term care facilities.
It looks like a classic cover-up, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences looks pretty bad for celebrating the televised press conferences at which the governor misled the public and concealed the deadly aftermath of his orders.
Could the Academy revoke the award? As a matter of fact, Emmy awards have been pulled back nine times, according to Entertainment Weekly. Most of these cases involve mix-ups over the arcane eligibility rules. For example Dennis Miller was nominated in 1995 for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for his work on “Dennis Miller Live,” but he wasn’t eligible because he was the host of the show. The award eventually went to Barbra Streisand.
Henry Winkler was nominated in 2000 for a guest-starring role on an NBC show called “Battery Park,” and the nomination was withdrawn because the episode aired after the May 31 cut-off date for eligibility.
These things happen.
That seems to be Cuomo’s defense for his indefensible decision to withhold requested data from state lawmakers and federal investigators. Things happen.
The Academy should find a way to make that Emmy award un-happen, and the next time they want to honor a politician for press conferences, they should probably wait to see how the show ends before they vote.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. [email protected] Twitter: @Susan_Shelley
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