New details emerged Wednesday about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic memoir, including how he enlisted government staffers to help with the book — for which he was offered more than $4 million, according to a new report.
Top aides, including Melissa de Rosa, Stephanie Benton and other junior staffers assisted the governor with drafts of “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which was published in mid-October, The New York Times reported.
The governor’s book deal — which came as he was riding high in popularity due to his nationally televised coronavirus briefings — ended with a $4 million offer, the Times reported.
Crown Publishing has since paused promotion of “American Crisis” because of a federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Early last summer, while DeRosa was helping to edit early drafts and attending video meetings with publishers, she and other top aides were also worried about an impending Health Department report about the virus’ toll on nursing homes, according to the Times.
The report threatened to reveal a far higher number of nursing home deaths from the coronavirus than had previously been made public by the administration.
Cuomo’s office later admitted that it removed the higher death toll from early drafts of the report, which was issued on July 6. The tally published in the report omitted thousands of nursing home residents who died in hospitals.
Cuomo had already begun working on his book detailing his response to the pandemic as early as mid-June, the Times reported, citing emails and an early draft of the tome.
Government staffers were reportedly helping with the manuscript by late June and early July — a potential violation of state laws that prohibit the use of public resources for personal gain.
A state ethics agency gave Cuomo permission last July to write it — but specifically told him not to to use state “personnel” or property “for activities associated with the book,” The Buffalo News reported.
That revelation came after the Times report, which detailed how Benton, for instance, twice asked assistants to print parts of the draft and deliver them to Cuomo at the Executive Mansion in Albany.
One of the requests, on July 5, involved a 224-page draft with edits from DeRosa, the report said.
The draft that DeRosa worked on didn’t include any mention of the Health Department report or its findings, but did have a searing indictment of de Blasio, according to the Times.
Cuomo wrote that his political foe had “very little interest or aptitude for government policy or governmental operations.”
He also slammed his fellow Democrat as being “viewed as one of the worst mayors in modern history,” who suffers from “obvious ego driven narcissism.”
“De Blasio’s standing is somewhere between negative and irrelevant,” Cuomo wrote.
De Blasio’s spokesman Bill Neidhardt told the Times: “Andrew Cuomo writing about ego-driven narcissism sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Cuomo has declined to reveal how much he got for the book, saying in August, “you’ll see it on my financial disclosure,” the deadline for which is May 15.
Senior Cuomo advisor Rich Azzopardi denied any connection between the book and the Health Department report to the Times.
He also said that DeRosa and Benton had “volunteered on this project,” something he added was “permissible and consistent with ethical requirements” of the state.
“Every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project,” Azzopardi said.
“To the extent an aide printed out a document,” he said, “it appears incidental.”
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