Molly Jong-Fast is an editor at the Daily Beast. Last March, on the same day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the entire state of New York into its first pandemic lockdown, she wrote a piece for Vogue which was basically a love note to the governor. It was titled “Why We Are Crushing on Andrew Cuomo Right Now” but Jong-Fast mostly wrote about herself.
Cuomo just didn’t speak to me, or rather, he spoke to me in a gruff, gravelly, overly emphatic and slightly obnoxious way about obscure bureaucratic infighting. He felt joyless, not exciting. I liked him but I didn’t like him like him. He was no Sherrod Brown, no Chris Murphy, no Val Deming, no Tammy Duckworth.
But what a difference a pandemic makes. All of a sudden, I love Governor Cuomo, his soothing Queens accent, his stories about his dad Mario (himself a three-time governor of New York) and his 88-year-old mother Matilda. And then there’s Andrew the dad, embarrassing his kids with stories of their upbringing after his divorce, when he was a single father, and bringing his 22-year-old daughter Michaela to one of his coronavirus press briefings, suggesting it was “cooler” to be with him there than to be on the spring break vacation she had just wisely cancelled.
After a long list of reasons to love him, she went on to mention an author at Jezebel who wrote a piece titled ” Help, I Think I’m in Love With Andrew Cuomo??” and then got a call from Cuomo in response. Jong-Fast said she was really jealous.
You know what? Even though I’m married and have three children and a fabulous husband I adore, I felt a pang of jealousy. He was MY competent governor/imaginary boyfriend.
Cringe! What’s most striking about the piece is how absolutely meaningless it is. It’s like listening to a middle school girls talk about boys on the telephone. There’s not one original or interesting thought in the whole thing. It’s just about riding the wave of excitement about him. What did he say today? Do you think he’ll call me? He’s kinda dreamy, right?
Well, no. Even then he wasn’t kinda dreamy. He presided over the worst outbreak in the country and his state seeded the outbreak in much of the rest of the nation as the wealthy fled to their second homes and he droned on about the ventilators he couldn’t get (and it turns out wouldn’t need).
Of course now that Cuomo has been accused of sexually harassing three women plus a cover up regarding nursing homes Jong-Fast is feeling a bit embarrassed. Today she published a piece distancing herself from her former crush.
I’ve been wrong before. In my 42 years I’ve had the privilege of being wrong many times and since I’ve been sober since I was 19, I can’t now blame booze. Besides being wrong many times, I’ve also crushed it with some scorchingly bad hot takes, like my piece for the Beast about how Biden should drop out a few days before he won South Carolina. Spoiler alert: He’s president now so I didn’t exactly nail that one. But “Why We Are Crushing on Andrew Cuomo Right Now,” which I wrote for Vogue, may have been my worst take.
A caveat: I did not write the headline. I do not have the power to approve or write my headlines. But since three much younger women, two of them former staffers, accused New York’s governor of harassment over the last week that headline is what people online have used to dunk on me. As Aristotle said, “Live by the tweet, die by the tweet—or figure out how to auto-delete your tweets.”
And headline aside, the piece was extremely bad and not at all good. In my defense, I did note his partnership with the very sketchy IDC, “a group of supposed Democrats who helped the Republicans control the New York State Senate for many years.” I called him joyless, but I also noted “what a difference a pandemic makes” as I praised my “competent governor/imaginary boyfriend.”
There’s more but that’s all you can read without a subscription. Really the only good thing you can say about it is that she’s far from alone in having boosted the Governor’s appeal. As a couple of left-leaning journalists pointed out last month in the Guardian, the rise of Cuomo was an entirely media-created debacle:
As the death toll mounted in New York, whistleblowers like Kim were all but ignored by a press corps giving Cuomo largely uncritical wall-to-wall coverage, depicting him as a swashbuckling lionheart saving his state from certain doom.
CNN granted Cuomo a recurring primetime segment with his own brother, which was predictably used to pump up the governor. In one particularly noxious segment weeks after Cuomo helped his hospital-industry donors insert the corporate immunity provisions into the state budget, his brother remarked on all of the governor’s fawning press coverage, declaring: “You’re feeling pretty good about yourself these days, aren’t you?”
As the nursing home death toll mounted, the media campaign to valorize the governor intensified, based on Cuomo’s press conferences. “Help, I Think I’m In Love With Andrew Cuomo?” Jezebel wrote. Vogue filed a similar piece, headlined: “Why We Are Crushing on Andrew Cuomo Right Now.”
“The governor of New York found himself at the center of a deadly crisis,” Rolling Stone wrote. “His response has helped guide the nation.”
Ultimately, as New York racked up the nation’s highest body count, and the press ignored Cuomo’s Democratic critics in the legislature, this deification all culminated in a macabre scene: standing in the shadow of his own Mount Covid, Cuomo received a book deal to write about his leadership, and he was awarded an Emmy for his television performances.
So Molly Jong-Fast should feel ashamed but to be fair to her, so should a lot of other people. At least she admitted she was wrong about Cuomo. That’s something.