After days of walking a fine line between praising Donald Trump and demanding more aid from the White House, a clearly aggravated Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed ready to share a piece of his mind — just like a true New Yorker.
Speaking at a press briefing this week on the latest updates surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic, the New York governor slammed the federal government for failing to provide the state with crucial medical supplies as it found itself at the epicentre of the unfolding crisis.
“FEMA is sending us 400 ventilators. Four hundred ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators. You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators?” he said on Tuesday. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators!”
This was the man who New Yorkers have tasked to lead the state through numerous crises for decades, serving as attorney general before becoming governor in 2011: an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is politician who doesn’t take any prisoners. In many ways, his sometimes-brash style appears similar to that of the president, though the two men are ideologically worlds apart.
The White House administration appeared to succumb to pressure following the governor’s fiery press conference. Vice President Mike Pence later confirmed the federal government would send an additional 2,000 ventilators to the state most impacted by the pandemic nationwide.
It was still nowhere near what the governor said he needed, however, at a moment when the entire world is in a competition to buy personal protective equipment for hospital staff, the development was another small victory for New York in the ongoing war against an invisible enemy.
Mr Cuomo has emerged as one of the most high-profile governors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, receiving widespread praise for his handling of the state’s outbreak, despite it being one of the most infected places in the country, according to the latest data.
But health officials say New York’s figures are likely higher than the rest of the country in part because its local government has been able to roll out expansive testing capabilities — a move that experts said could help save lives by slowing the spread of transmissions — far quicker than other states.
Despite having sued the president on a number of occasions and publicly speaking out against his administration’s hard-line immigration agenda, Mr Cuomo seems to have maintained a steady relationship with Mr Trump throughout the pandemic, reportedly speaking to him multiple times a day while pushing for further life-saving resources to be sent to New York.
A day after Mr Cuomo slammed Mr Trump over the lack of ventilators, he later praised the White House for its “cooperation” during the pandemic.
He has also publicly praised Mr Trump for his help, saying in a previous press briefing: “I can tell you he is fully engaged on trying to help New York. He’s being very creative and very energetic, and I thank him for his partnership.”
While Mr Cuomo does not align politically with Mr Trump, he has seemingly walked that fine line quite successfully in recent days. The president himself told Fox News “it’s a two-way street” when it comes to helping out the nation’s governors during the pandemic, adding: “They have to treat us well also.”
In fact, as criticism over Mr Trump’s seemingly slow and fumbled response to the coronavirus continued to grow throughout the week, “President Cuomo” began trending on social media as users praised the New York governor for his frequent public updates and daily press briefings about the novel virus.
One viral tweet that received more than three thousands likes on Wednesday read: “When you watch Governor Cuomo doing his coronavirus briefings, you can’t hep but think ‘Why the hell wasn’t HE running for President?”
The governor also received glowing praise from local newspapers, including the New York Times, which published a story on Wednesday titled: “How Cuomo, Once on Sidelines, Became the Politician of the Moment.”
Mr Cuomo, whose father served as a three-term governor of New York, has been involved in politics virtually his entire adult life, entering the national spotlight as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Until recently, the governor’s relationship with Mr Trump has been all but friendly.
Just last month, the two were involved in a rift after the administration kicked New Yorkers off a Trusted Traveller Programme, a move Mr Cuomo’s administration said was “politically motivated” and meant to force his hand in providing sensitive immigration data to the White House.
They failed to find a resolution during a meeting due to an apparent stalemate over a New York state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. That same law, which the Trump administration strongly opposed, blocked state data from going to federal immigration authorities.
Mr Cuomo doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, even in spite of the administration’s apparent strong arming.
Speaking to NY Daily News before a meeting at the White House, the governor concluded about his attempts to work with the administration: “It makes me feel better knowing I did everything I could to argue for the state of New York.”