Kim claims Cuomo gave nursing homes 'license to kill,' shrugs off governor's attack as 'total distraction'

New York lawmaker claims Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to destroy him

FOX News correspondent Bryan Llenas joins 'Special Report' with the latest on the nursing home scandal

Democratic New York Assemblyman Ron Kim says that when Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for health care facilities to have immunity from liability for actions or omissions related to the coronavirus pandemic, he essentially gave them a "license to kill."

Kim told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that while nursing homes had complained about not being equipped to handle residents with COVID-19 – with many of their staff members out sick – Cuomo gave them cover instead of helping them care for patients.

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"When he sent 9,000 COVID-positives to nursing homes," Kim said, "these nursing homes were crying, 'We can't take them, half of our staff members are out with COVID.'"

"Instead of listening, he issued a legal blanket immunity and snuck that into our budget, giving the facilities essentially a license to kill, get out of jail free card," Kim said.

Lately Kim, whose uncle died in a nursing home after having symptoms of COVID-19, has been a vociferous opponent of Cuomo when it comes to the nursing home scandal. The two have traded blows through the media or press conferences, particularly after Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa said the administration withheld statistics of nursing home deaths to avoid repercussions from the Department of Justice.

Kim spoke out against Cuomo's administration following that report, which reportedly led to the governor calling Kim and asking him to issue a statement saying that what DeRosa really said was that "there was a federal investigation and they had to deal with that first."

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Kim told the New York Post that when he did not go along with this Cuomo threatened him, saying, "You will be destroyed."

Kim told Lehrer that at one point he had given suggestions of "tangible solutions" to Cuomo for how to fix the nursing home scandal and "right your wrongs."

These included "a public acknowledgment you made a mistake," an apology, and the repeal of the immunity.

Kim said that instead of taking his advice on how to move forward, Cuomo held a press conference and "started again trying to implicate the Senate, the Assembly."

The assemblyman said this was why he had to resist and say, "No, we will not be a partner in your corruption and your bad behavior, we will stand up and do the right thing and protect the integrity of the Senate and the Assembly."

Fox News reached out to Cuomo's office for comment, but they did not immediately respond.

Cuomo told reporters that Kim's opposition to him is the product of a years-long rivalry going back to a bill for protection of nail salon workers in 2015. Kim said this was a "total distraction."

Cuomo has defended bringing up the past and making charged statements about Kim by saying he was merely responding to Kim's accusation that Cuomo committed obstruction and pushed for health care facilities' immunity because of lobbying from a hospital association that contributed to his campaign.

Kim reiterated that assertion during Thursday's interview.

"Gov. Cuomo allowed his top donors, the lobbyists who give him $1.25 million, from the hospital association to write business-friendly policies like the legal immunity for nursing homes. They even bragged about writing it, they sent out a press release!"

This was likely a reference to the Greater New York Hospital Association, which Kim has named in the past in connection to this, although the figure he cited was slightly above the $1.15 million that the Empire Center for Public Policy reported in January 2019. That money reportedly went to the New York Democratic Committee, which used much of its funds to support Cuomo's reelection.

GNYHA did issue a press release on April 2, 2020. It appears to have been taken down, but the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has a record of it.

"GNYHA drafted and aggressively advocated for this legislation," the release said, adding, "We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for hearing our concerns and working with us so effectively."

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Kim said he did not vote for the bill that contained immunity. He claimed that the immunity language "was snuck in by the executive" and that "most of the members were not even briefed" because it was put in at the "last minute."

A GNYHA official confirmed to Fox News that they had worked with a member of Cuomo's staff on the legislation but said they did not lobby the governor directly. The official also said the language they drafted was specific to hospitals.

"We did not lobby on behalf of nursing homes. We assume that some or all of New York's nursing home associations lobbied on behalf of nursing homes, but GNYHA did not," the official said.

The official also stated that at the time, they were not aware that Cuomo's March 25 directive requiring nursing homes to take residents with COVID-19 would be issued.

Kim said the big problem with granting immunity to not just professionals but facilities is that it removes incentives for the people running the facilities to make investments that would improve their ability to handle the situation, like purchasing more PPE for workers or hiring additional staff.

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Ultimately, Kim acknowledged that Cuomo was not intending to create a situation where people would die, but claimed that the governor had been "listening to the wrong advice."

Instead of listening to lobbyists and business people who "primarily cared about the bottom line of the industry," Kim said Cuomo should have listened to workers, families, residents and patients.

Ronn Blitzer Fox News