Former Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with the help of his brother Chris and top-aide Melissa DeRosa, reportedly plotted to discredit Fox News meteorologist and host for being a vocal critic of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janice Dean became a major critic of the New York governor over his handling of the pandemic inside the state’s nursing homes after losing both her in-laws in elder-care facilities in 2020. The Daily Caller News Foundation first broke the news in May 2020 that New York had undercounted the number of COVID-related deaths among nursing home patients by as much as 50%. (RELATED: Here’s How Cuomo Used Undercounted Nursing Home Deaths To Mislead The Public)
DeRosa and other close aides of Cuomo planned to discredit Dean as a “right-wing commentator” for being a vocal critic of the governor’s pandemic policies, CNBC reported. DeRosa crafted strategies to attempt to silence Dean’s criticisms, sources familiar with the matter told the outlet.
The governor, along with many close allies, reportedly attended some of the strategy sessions where Dean was mentioned, according to the outlet. The sessions largely focused on the Cuomo administration’s response to the pandemic.
Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was reportedly encouraged to gather information on Dean’s political affiliation, sources familiar with the matter told the outlet. It is unclear if Cuomo ever sought out information on the Fox News host.
Scoop: Andrew Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa and Chris Cuomo discussed with allies ways to discredit Fox News’ @JaniceDean over her criticism of the way the then governor handled nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, sources tell me.
— Brian Schwartz (@schwartzbCNBC) December 10, 2021
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for the former governor, told the outlet that he had no knowledge of Chris seeking information on Dean. He reportedly said the strategy sessions were not centered around her and that her criticisms were addressed by Cuomo’s press office. (RELATED: ‘I Didn’t Think He Was Going To Do It’: Janice Dean Says She’s In Shock After Cuomo Resignation)
“We had no ‘strategy sessions’ about Janice Dean and to the extent that the press office had to respond to something she said, it was handled by the press office and did not rise to the level of something the governor would be engaged with,” he said in a Friday email.
Dean said that her criticisms were not political but watched as families, including herself, grieved on behalf of the victims, according to the outlet. She said Azzopardi called herself and other vocal critics “a death cult.”
“As I have said from day one, this was never about politics,” Dean said. “I watched first-hand how the governor’s office treated grieving families trying to get answers about the March 25th, 2020 executive order to admit over 9,000 Covid positive patients into nursing homes.”
“Instead of addressing our concerns or expressing their condolences, Cuomo’s spokesperson Rich Azzopardi called us a ‘death cult’ and told my sister-in-law to ‘get a life’ not long after both her parents died.”
Dean called Azzopardi’s criticisms towards her “misogynistic” and said she is “not surprised” that the Cuomo brothers tried to silence her, the outlet reported. She concluded that she is “glad these details are coming to light.”
In March 2020, the New York Department of Health (DOH) ordered that COVID-positive nursing home patients could not be turned away from facilities, leading Dean to blame the governor and the directive for the deaths of her in-laws. The DOH changed its reporting procedures in May to only count patients who physically died in the facility. (RELATED: REPORT: New York Allowed Coronavirus-Infected Nurses To Work In Nursing Home)
Azzopardi fired back against Dean’s earlier criticisms that blamed the governor and the DOH’s directive for her in-laws’ deaths in a statement to the Daily Mail earlier this year, according to the outlet.
“Last I checked she’s not a credible source on anything except maybe the weather,” he said.