The last time New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held an in-person press conference with the Empire State press was in June. That’s a fairly long stretch for the governor of America’s fourth largest state and an aspiring 2020 presidential contender to stay under the radar. But this week it was clearly going to change. Cuomo has been on a tirade against the tax “reform” bill currently going through reconciliation and he wants his voice heard in the national debate.

So let’s have a press conference, right? Well… not quite. The Governor was “unavailable” for such a spectacle, but he did arrange for a conference call where reporters could phone in. There were two catches to this scheme, however. First, Cuomo’s aides were calling around to local reporters trying to plant questions so the Governor could get his message across. Second, and even more embarrassing, was the fact that Cuomo wasn’t unavailable at all. He was right inside of his Albany suite of offices. The press caught wind of it, particularly Politico, and they busted him by both refusing to go along with the planted questions and calling in to the “press conference” from the hallway outside his office. (See edit below)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to take questions from the Albany press corps by phone rather than in person on Thursday, even though he was in the capital city, and his aides contacted several reporters in hopes of planting questions with them…

To show their dissatisfaction with the arrangement, Albany reporters from several outlets, including POLITICO, phoned in to the conference from outside Cuomo’s Capitol suite. Gubernatorial press aides then contacted several reporters, three of them said, hoping to have them ask if the governor was inclined to give state lawmakers a pay raise this year. They refused and were not called on during the conference call.

Here’s how far away the reporters were from the Governor’s office while the “conference call” was taking place. (Jimmy Vielkind/POLITICO)

To show their dissatisfaction with the arrangement, Albany reporters from several outlets, including POLITICO, phoned in to the conference from outside Cuomo’s Capitol suite. | Jimmy Vielkind/POLITICO

The tawdry nature of this attempt at deceiving the public was derided on Twitter by NY Daily News Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett.

“We are a step away from Cuomo having his staff interview him on phone conferences.”

Once it became obvious that the scheme had been discovered, Cuomo ended the “press conference” after only four questions. Please do read the rest of the linked Politico article for some background on how Cuomo campaigned on a platform of transparency and engaging with the public. Those noble ideas seem to have fallen by the wayside as he seeks to improve his national press portfolio.

At this point, Republicans could only dream of being so lucky as to have Andrew Cuomo wind up as the Democrats’ 2020 nominee. If these kind of hijinks are how he handles his relationship with the press corps in Albany and he’s so easily found out, just imagine what would happen to him inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, Cuomo’s climb to the Oval Office looks incredibly unlikely already. In addition to clownish antics like this, there is a mountain of opposition research out there detailing the number of corruption investigations which his administration has been bogged down in and any number of campaign finance “irregularities.” (And don’t even get us started on what happened to the “Buffalo Billion.”)

Still, hats off to Politico and the rest of the Albany press corps for sniffing out this bit of deception and exposing it to the public.

UPDATE: (Jazz) Politico has updated their story to indicate that the Governor was actually in a different office at the time..

Spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Cuomo was at the Executive Mansion on Eagle Street for the call: “The governor was working on the state of the state at the house, was not in the office, and decided to conduct a press conference call to keep this critically important issue in the news and reach media outlets in these congressmember’s districts.”