Reporter to Psaki: Do you still consider Cuomo the "gold standard" for COVID leadership?

Reporter to Psaki: Do you still consider Cuomo the "gold standard" for COVID leadership?

A fun, if longish, exchange between Jen Psaki and Fox’s Peter Doocy is worth a watch at the end of a long day. The White House has apparently prepped a bit better on questions about Andrew Cuomo than before, but last weekend the question of sexual harassment or assault hadn’t arisen, either. They’d better start getting used to these, and they might not all come from Doocy:

PETER DOOCY: Thank you, Jen. The head of the group the president is going to be with today, the National Governors Association, Andrew Cuomo is being accused of sexual harassment by a former staffer, Lindsay Boylan. She says that Cuomo, while he was governor, gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips. He asked her to play strip poker. Is the White House worried about this becoming a distraction from the important meeting about COVID response?

PSAKI: Well, let me first say that the President has been consistent in his position when a person comes forward. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Their voice should be heard, not silenced, and any allegation should be reviewed. Governor Cuomo is also the governor of one of the largest states in the country that has been one of the hardest hit with millions of people still suffering from an ongoing pandemic. And an economic crisis. And our focus is to continue working with governors from across the country, from a range of states on how we’re helping people in our states. He also is still head of the National Governors Association. Hence, he’s at the event today.

DOOCY: And to him, being in charge of the governors and in charge of such a big state, will the president talk to him about these accusations from Democrats in the New York legislature that Cuomo misled the public about deaths in nursing homes from the pandemic?

PSAKI: Well, this is a meeting and a conversation with a range of governors about how we can all work together to address the pandemic and get relief to the American people. And that’s what I expect the focus, the meeting to be on.

DOOCY: There are some Democrats in New York who want a but want congressional hearings about these deaths in nursing homes. There was a Cuomo aide who told lawmakers in February that the Cuomo administration withheld the number of residents who died in hospitals from the public due to the fear that it would be used against them by federal prosecutors. Is this something the White House thinks would be appropriate for a congressional hearing?

PSAKI: It’s really up to Congress to determine how they want to review or have hearings on those reports.

DOOCY: And I know you’re asked about this this weekend, but I’ll try again. Does President Biden still think Andrew Cuomo is the gold standard for global leadership and that he’s doing a hell of a job, which he has said about?

PSAKI: Well, first of all, I think to be fair, let’s put all of the comments into context. Which sometimes is missing from these conversations we have in here or during interviews. At the time which I believe was April of last year the President spoke up and said positive things about a range of governors. Democrats and Republicans who were stepping when there was a vacuum of leadership at a federal level when they were getting no information were getting no help, no guidance from the former Trump administration. He made some comments about Governor Cuomo and a range of Governors about what was going on at the time.

That’s a bit of a dodge from Psaki, and also a bit of  a trap. Psaki makes an argument, essentially, that Biden was cheerleading against Trump rather than for Cuomo as a way to distance Biden from what Cuomo was actually doing in April.  It concedes, tacitly at least, that all Joe Biden would have known about Cuomo’s performance was what he was getting from the media. Or about Trump’s performance, for that matter; Biden spent the entire campaign, transition, and the first month of his presidency claiming that Trump didn’t have a plan, only to end up doing pretty much what Trump had already done on COVID-19. Biden still hasn’t come up with a plan that has any significant differences than the previous administration’s.

Anyway, there isn’t anything momentous here, other than the early-round jabs between two boxers in a long, long heavyweight bout. If nothing else, it will continue to force the White House to distance itself from Cuomo, which really won’t be all that difficult to do, but will be fun to watch nonetheless.

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