New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hammered President Trump for the federal government’s “dysfunctional and incompetent” response to the coronavirus crisis in a scathing speech Monday on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention.
“We saw the failure of a government that tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicize it — the failed federal government that watched New York get ambushed by their negligence, and then watched New York suffer, but all through it learned absolutely nothing,” Cuomo said in a speech by video.
Cuomo was one of the first Democratic luminaries to speak at a convention that the pandemic has effectively forced online to keep thousands of party faithful from gathering and spreading the virus.
Cuomo, 62, a potential presidential contender in 2024 or 2028, said the Trump administration remained unprepared to overcome a pandemic that slammed into New York City five months ago.
“This is a man-made threat by our own negligence,” he said. “We now see the virus ricocheting across the country from one state to another. Today we trail the world in defeating COVID. We have over 5 million cases.”
More than 170,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
With more than 32,000 deaths, New York remains the hardest-hit state. But Cuomo’s lockdown and methodical reopening have left New York with a low level of contagion this summer even as the virus continues to ravage Florida, Texas and other parts of the country that rushed to reopen.
When New York was the pandemic’s epicenter in April, Cuomo’s televised daily briefings were widely watched nationwide as Americans began absorbing the enormity of the crisis.
His command of the health data and empathy with the suffering of New Yorkers contrasted with Trump’s disregard for scientific expertise, refusal to call for nationwide sacrifice and reluctance to recognize the pain of those who lost loved ones.
Cuomo’s popularity soared as President Trump’s dropped.
“Americans’ eyes have been opened, and we have seen in this crisis the truth: That government matters and leadership matters,” Cuomo said. “And it determines whether we thrive and grow, or whether we live or die.”
Cuomo suggested COVID-19 was a symptom of a sharply divided nation in crisis. He cited anti-Semitism, “anti-immigrant fervor” and the racism on display in the violent 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., “where the KKK didn’t even bother to wear their hoods.”
“Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division,” Cuomo said. “The division created Trump. He only made it worse.”
He described Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as “a leader who appeals to the best within us, not the worst, a leader who can unify, not divide, a leader who can bring us up, not tear us down.”
Steve Guest, the rapid response director at the Republican National Committee, said Biden’s record of responding to pandemics when he was vice president was “dismal.”
“Andrew Cuomo’s appearance at Joe Biden’s convention is a stark reminder of the Democrats’ failed responses to pandemics,” he said, citing citing the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 and 2010.
In that outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,469 people died in the U.S. In the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the agency said, one person in the U.S. died.