Cuomo Book Promotion Halted by Publisher, Citing Nursing Homes Inquiry


The publisher of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s book on his leadership during the pandemic said it had stopped promoting the title because of an inquiry into the withholding of data on the deaths of nursing home residents.

Sales of the book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” had already slowed severely as the governor found himself embroiled in overlapping crises of his own making, including a drumbeat of accusations about his inappropriate behavior toward younger women and his aides’ manipulation of nursing home data.

Gillian Blake of Crown Publishing Group said in response to an email from The New York Times that there were “no plans” to reprint Mr. Cuomo’s book or to reissue it in paperback, citing “the ongoing investigation into N.Y.S. reporting of Covid-related fatalities in nursing homes.”

The book was published by Crown, a division of Penguin Random House, which rushed to get it into print last year. The publisher celebrated its acquisition in an announcement last summer, describing how Mr. Cuomo, “in his own voice,” would write about “the decision-making that shaped his political policy.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mr. Cuomo and his top aides concealed the actual number of nursing home residents with Covid-19 who died, excluding those who died in hospitals out of the state’s official count for all of last year.

The Cuomo administration released the data in February, after a report by the state attorney general, Letitia James, suggested widespread undercounting. A court ordered the data to be made public after a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Empire Center, a conservative think tank.

Mr. Cuomo had begun working on the book by early last summer, as he received praise for his pandemic leadership and rode a wave of national popularity fueled by his daily news conferences.

The decision to publish a triumphant account of the state’s battle against coronavirus was questioned by some political observers at the time, especially considering the crushing death toll in New York and the second wave of the disease that was looming even as Mr. Cuomo did promotional events for the book. Mr. Cuomo, however, said the book was not premature, arguing it was “halftime” in the pandemic and noting that the manuscript offered a “blueprint for going forward.”

Critics and political adversaries of the governor, including President Donald J. Trump, had already been raising questions over his handing of nursing homes in New York, which were hard hit during the worst days of the outbreak in March and April.

By June, Mr. Cuomo’s top aides were actively battling their own Health Department over what data to include in a report studying the deaths of nursing home residents. At the time, the state was reporting publicly that around 6,500 nursing home residents had died, leaving out those who were transported to hospitals. The true tally was more than 9,000, according to a chart prepared for the report and reviewed by The Times.

Once the aides, including his most senior adviser, Melissa DeRosa, learned that the Health Department intended to include that higher number, they rewrote the report to take it out, according to documents and interviews with people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The governor’s office has said that the nursing home numbers were still being finalized at the time and that the total number of fatalities in the state remained the same.

Four days after the report’s publication, Mr. Cuomo said publicly for the first time in a radio interview on July 10 that he was thinking about writing a book. By that point, he had already begun to seek permission from a state oversight agency to earn outside income from book sales.

The book was not formally announced until the next month. It hit shelves in October and was quickly declared a best seller.

But its sales flagged as a new wave of coronavirus infections crested over the state and the nation. That trend appeared to intensify over the last six weeks, as the governor’s public image spiraled downward as a result of a cascade of scandals.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have been looking into the state’s handling of nursing homes, according to three people familiar with the matter.

“Pending the ongoing investigation,” Ms. Blake said in the email, “we have paused active support of ‘American Crisis’ and have no plans to reprint or reissue in paperback.”

Even before several women came forward to accuse Mr. Cuomo of workplace sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior, sales were moribund. Between Jan. 23 and Feb. 27, the title sold only about 400 copies, according to NPD BookScan, with a total of 45,800 sold, and several thousand e-books also purchased. (Online sales are tabulated much more slowly, according to BookScan.)

Mr. Cuomo has not said how much money he was paid to write “American Crisis,” which covers a period from the discovery of the first case in New York on March 1 to June 19, when he gave the last of more than 100 consecutive daily news updates.

One chapter of the book was focused on May 10, when the governor reversed course on a March memo that required nursing homes to take in or readmit Covid-positive residents. The memo had become a focal point for attacks by the governor’s critics.

Mr. Cuomo spends much of the chapter defending his administration’s performance, describing the criticism of the memo, dated March 25, as politically motivated.

“Republicans needed an offense to distract from the narrative of their botched federal response — and they needed it badly,” Mr. Cuomo wrote in the book. “So they decided to attack Democratic governors and blame them for nursing home deaths.”

But, Mr. Cuomo argued later in the same chapter that “the facts totally defeated the Republican claim.”

“New York was No. 46 out of 50 in the nation when it came to percentage of deaths in nursing homes,” the governor wrote, mentioning a July report that suggested that “the virus came into nursing homes as the work force got infected.”

New York’s actual position in a ranking of states would have been worse had the true toll — about 50 percent higher than he had revealed — been included in the analysis.

Cuomo administration officials and state health officials have both said that even with the additional data, the conclusions of the July 6 report — that the March memo was not a main driver of deaths in nursing homes — remained the same. The withholding of the true number of nursing home residents who died did not change the overall number of Covid-19 deaths in New York — which now stands at more than 47,000, including more than 15,000 nursing home residents.

But with Mr. Cuomo’s book in the works, his aides for months prevented the Health Department from revising the death toll to be considerably higher.

“American Crisis” was published on Oct. 13. Since then, there have been 15,025 coronavirus deaths reported statewide in New York, according to The Times’s database.





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