- Andrew Cuomo, like Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, was a nationally-acclaimed “hero.”
- But after a series of revelations and disastrous pressers, the bloom is off Cuomo’s rose.
- Both men sullied their reputations simply by being themselves — arrogant, bullying, and unaccountable.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Andrew Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani have more in common than they’d probably care to admit.
The Italian-American heritage, the outer-borough New York City roots, and the way they both parlayed their legal backgrounds into elected executive positions are among the more obvious comparisons.
Cuomo and Giuliani also followed similar paths to nationally-acclaimed “hero” status.
And both men soon sullied their ascendant reputations simply by revealing the disagreeable, narcissistic tendencies that were there all along.
Like Cuomo, Rudy was once briefly considered a national “hero”
Rudy Giuliani was always a media heat-seeking missile, going back to his days as a crusading federal prosecutor taking on the New York mafia.
He rode that “tough on crime” persona to two terms as mayor at a time when New York City was emerging from decades of mismanagement, high crime rates, and blight.
Giuliani was the face of the city’s turnaround, but he was also the same face that presided over a New York Police Department rife with allegations of systemic abuse. And he was the “no-fun” mayor who enforced archaic “cabaret laws” that criminalized dancing. He was also a would-be censor for his efforts to shut down the Brooklyn Museum over an art exhibition that offended him.
When New York magazine ran an ad mocking declaring the publication “‘possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for,” Giuliani tried to have the ads removed.
As the end of his second term approached, New York was clearly ready to move on from Giuliani.
Then 9/11 happened.
It’s hard for people under the age of 30 to believe, but I swear it’s true: Rudy Giuliani deserves the credit he got for being “America’s Mayor” on 9/11 and the immediate weeks thereafter.
Giuliani was in the shadows of the twin towers when they came crashing down.
He emerged as a picture of calm, steady, authoritative leadership. He helped tamp down on panic by refuting unfounded rumors. He demonstrated empathy for the loved ones of “the missing” – while grieving for many of his own friends.
As an unflappable conduit of information to a traumatized nation, and later as “mourner-in-chief,” Giuliani presented an image of stoic resilience.
And thanks to his years of service as Trump’s legal surrogate, Giuliani’s become a central figure in two impeachments. He also bears the shame of propagating baseless election fraud conspiracy theories that have poisoned the brains of millions of voters.
Ultimately, the image of Giuliani’s bug-eyed head-melting press conference will probably outlive the image of him marching up Broadway covered in dust on 9/11.
Cuomo reveals the real Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo was never as divisive a figure as Giuliani, but he has developed a reputation for being personally disagreeable, vindictive, and autocratic.
All of that receded into distant memory at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
With then-President Donald Trump spreading dangerous misinformation, the New York governor’s daily press conferences became a national balm.
Like Giuliani post-9/11, Cuomo presented as a thoughtful leader, tamping down on rumors and false information, while also not condescending to the public. When relaying the horrifically tragic death tolls, he gave it to you straight, no filter.
Cuomo filled the leadership void, and for that he was feted across the talk show and nightly news show circuits. He hopped on planes for a “victory” tour. And he wrote a book about “leadership” during the COVID pandemic.
There was speculation that Cuomo might replace Joe Biden atop the Democratic presidential ticket. Cuomo’s press conferences earned him an Emmy award. And “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah declared himself a “Cuomosexual.”
Like Giuliani 19 years prior, Cuomo was on top of the world.
So confident in his own greatness was Cuomo that he blithely dismissed calls for an independent investigation into his administration’s order that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients as dirty Republican trickery. For months Cuomo was able to maintain this posture to little media scrutiny, even though many Democrats demanded greater transparency from the governor.
But then last week a bombshell report from New York’s attorney general Letitia James revealed that the state had been deliberately undercounting its COVID nursing home deaths, by approximately 50%.
And on Wednesday, a state Supreme Court justice ruled the Cuomo administration’s Department of Health inappropriately stonewalled a Freedom of Information Law request into the state’s data regarding COVID nursing home deaths. As a result, New York state taxpayers will have to pay the complainant’s legal bills.
Cuomo, put simply, had finally been revealed as a liar and the worst kind of “leader,” one who couldn’t even acknowledge he had made a mistake.
Read more: Cuomo lied, and now we know it
Take Cuomo’s handling of bars and restaurants during the pandemic.
These are typically small businesses that turn just-modest profits even during boom times. They’re also often the lifeblood of communities. But at every turn Cuomo has shown a clumsy indifference to actually helping people.
The governor arbitrarily added minimum food requirements for any establishment serving alcohol, then ordered strict crackdowns to enforce them.
Similarly, he abruptly shut down indoor dining in New York City in December because of rising COVID rates, but now says they will reopen on Valentine’s Day, even though COVID hospitalization rates are currently about 60% higher than they were in December.
When asked by a reporter if restaurant workers could be added to the new list of vaccine-eligible occupations, Cuomo dismissed it as “a cheap, insincere, discussion.”
A day later, he did an about-face and said he’d allow restaurant workers to join the ranks of the vaccinated.
And this week, The New York Times reported that nine top New York health officials had resigned as Cuomo “has all but declared war on his own public health bureaucracy.” The result has been a horribly botched vaccination rollout and morale “at an all-time low” among the state’s health agencies.
Cuomo’s press conferences – much like Rudy Giuliani’s – are now more likely to be mocked than lauded, as he grows more comfortable revealing his arrogance, mean-spiritedness, and indifference to people suffering as a result of his own governance.
Giuliani and Cuomo both rose to national hero status despite spotty reputations and let the adulation go to their heads. And both have since sullied those reputations, simply by being themselves.