In his final public remarks as governor, Cuomo touted some of his big-ticket accomplishments, including a series of infrastructure projects and passing marriage equality. But he mostly used the stage in an effort to cast doubt on the detailed report that ultimately made his position untenable and offer one last round of criticisms against the progressive Democrats who fought him on policy during his decade in office. The outgoing governor also blamed the media for its reporting on the allegations against him, suggesting reporters had been too quick to accept the results of the probe, which Cuomo and his team have sought to chip away at, without much success, since its release earlier this month.
“A firecracker can start a stampede, but at one point, everyone looks around and says, ‘Why are we running?’ The truth is ultimately always revealed,” Cuomo said in the opening salvo of his closing argument to the public. “The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked. There was a political and media stampede, but the truth will out in time.”
Cuomo has repeatedly denied the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, allowing that he made mistakes, but always insisting that the more serious accusations were untrue.
In a speech that appeared to be as much about score-settling as setting out a more optimistic idea of his governing legacy, Cuomo took aim early at progressive and leftist lawmakers and activists.
“No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have, but I disagree with some people in my own party who called to defund the police,” Cuomo said. “I believe it is misguided. I believe it is dangerous. Gun violence and crime are savaging inner cities. Look at New York City. The majority of victims are poor, Black and brown.”
Cuomo did not name New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the governor’s term-limited political foe, but in his praise of de Blasio’s likely replacement, Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, Cuomo got in one last jab.
“Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York City. I think he’ll bring a new philosophy and competence to the position, which can give New York City residents hope for the future,” Cuomo said.
Despite the controversies that still linger over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — most notably his administration’s underreporting of nursing home deaths — Cuomo appealed to New Yorkers to remember the state’s progress since last spring, when it was the first American coronavirus epicenter.
“Don’t forget what we accomplished. We went from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest,” Cuomo said. “We did what no one thought could be done. Why? Because when the rest of the nation put their head in the sand and denied science and played politics, we faced up to the facts and we made the tough but necessary decisions.”
Cuomo concluded on a more conciliatory, almost regretful note.
After ticking off the specific successes, like the rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport, a new Penn Station in Manhattan and the launch of clean energy projects across the state, he said, “In sum, we didn’t get everything done that we wanted to — or even everything that we should have done. And we didn’t always get it quite right.”
“But I want you to know,” Cuomo added, “from the bottom of my heart, that everyday I worked my hardest, I gave it my all and I tried my best to deliver for you — and that is the God’s honest truth.