Andrew Cuomo Reflects on Pandemic Fatalities in New York: "I Still Hold Myself Responsible"

Governor Andrew Cuomo to Give First Late Night Interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Publicity - H 2020
Comedy Central

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday night gave his first late-night interview on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, where he spoke about how being at the helm of the coronavirus pandemic has personally affected him. 

In a clip from the interview, Noah spoke about his own experience amid the pandemic before asking the governor about his. "There’s no lying that everyone has been affected by this," the late-night host said. "You know, some days I feel like life is normal, some days I feel like this is the craziest thing we’ve ever experienced and it swings wildly. I know everyone has a different of it."

Noah went on to say, "I don’t know what it’s like to be a leader, a governor of a state with thousands of people are dying, and you are hearing this, you are seeing the stories, you’re responsible for these lives — you’re not responsible for the deaths, but you’re responsible for the lives of the people and keeping everybody as safe as you can."

The host then asked Cuomo, "What has that done for you as a person, how are you doing and how are you dealing with this?"

Answered Cuomo, "On the communication, which is so important because really this is all a voluntary program by New Yorkers, right, they changed their behavior and brought down the infection rate. But I gave them the information. Part of the information was personal, because this is traumatic, this is PTSD for an entire generation that will talk about this. And it is personal, so I try to communicate how I feel personally and my fear and my anxiety as part of this to say to you, you’re not alone — everybody’s feeling this, I’m feeling it too."

He continued, "The one differentiation is, I have to deal with the number of deaths in the state. Fifteen thousand people, Trevor. 9/11 had 2,700 people — that was supposed to be the worst experience of my life, I believed. Twenty-seven hundred people. This is 15,000 people. Four-hundred seventy-four yesterday. That weighs heavily on me."

Added the governor, "I can sit here and say to you, I believe that we did everything that could possibly be done. I don’t believe that we lost anyone because we didn’t have a bed and we didn’t have doctors and nurses. We did that. But we still lost 15,000 people. And I still am the governor and I still hold myself responsible."

Cuomo said that he continues to ask himself what else he could have done to curb the spread of the virus. "What else could I do? What else could I do? Was there anything else that we could be doing right now?" he asks himself. "That is a very heavy burden to bear," concluded the governor. 

In another moment from the interview, Noah asked the Governor about his relationship with President Trump, who he has met and spoken with about future plans to reopen New York. "The relationship between myself and the president is, the president doesn't like me. That is the relationship. It is unambiguous. It is honest. It is open. And he doesn't like my politics, let's say. And we have been at political loggerheads many times in the past few years. If you look at his Twitter account, you'll see my name quite often. None of it good, Trevor, none of it good. And I've sued the federal government a number of times, so it's not necessarily loving. 

He went on to say that he did recently have a productive meeting at the White House, where he spoke with the president about testing and how the state should approach its massive urgency. "I give them credit, because it's hard to actually sit down with someone who you have differences with, and say, 'Put that all aside and let's just do our jobs here, our respective jobs, because it's bigger than we are.'"

During the interview, Noah asked the Governor why he chose to take a personal approach in his interactions with New Yorkers.

"We had our first case on March 1st," said Cuomo. "I was going to put in some of the most dramatic government mandates in history. No other governor has shut down the economy. No other governor has ever said 'you have to stay home.' If New Yorkers had said, 'no, I’m not doing it,' and New Yorkers are a defiant bunch, I would have been powerless. I can’t enforce a stay at home order for 19 million people."

He continued, "The ability to have a plan was purely dependent on New Yorkers buying in and they are smart and they are cynical. If they don’t believe you, or you haven’t made your argument or laid out the facts, they’re not going to do it. Especially when you’re asking them to do something they don’t want to do. Especially when you’re asking them to do something they have never done before."

"I mean, just think about saying to New Yorkers, 'everybody must stay home, lock the door, you can’t go outside, except to go buy food and then you have to go run right back home.' No. I’m a native New Yorker, my first instinct is, no, I’m not doing that. So, they had to believe it and to understand it. I am not in the business of not telling the truth."

Speaking about his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo who has been vocal in sharing his experience with COVID-19, the Governor said, "He's my man, he's my best friend. I don't like to give him any credit, because that's the whole big brother, little brother thing, but the guy is a superstar, he really is. And he's a beautiful guy, he's just a beauty."

Striking a serious note, Cuomo said of his younger brother, "But he gets sick, he's in his basement, I can't even go see him. And then his wife gets sick, she's quarantined upstairs, she's quarantined in the basement, he's got three kids, a 17-year-old and two younger kids, and I can't go see him, I can't help the kids. It's this terrible nightmare of a science fiction movie."