In a stunning about-face, former Gov. David Paterson on Monday suddenly walked back his criticism from a day earlier of successor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Paterson said he “misspoke,” just hours after The Post put a story online about his Sunday radio interview where he said Cuomo should admit he made a mistake for directing the facilities to take in COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals.
About 6,2000 nursing home residents in the state have died or are presumed to have died from the coronavirus.
Cuomo has come under fire for his initial March 25 state Health Department order that directed nursing homes to admit or readmit recovering COVID patients discharged from hospitals.
“I think some of the of the people sent back to the nursing homes with the virus – and nursing homes weren’t equipped to quarantine them from everyone else – and I think it had some difficult consequences,” Paterson said during an interview on AM 970 The Answer Sunday with Frank Morano.
“The governor was trying to do the right thing. One thing you learn in life but we never allow our elected officials to engage in is that you can’t get everything right,” Paterson said.
He said when questions and criticisms were first raised about the nursing home order, “He [Cuomo] seemed to be blaming the nursing homes – but he gave the order,” Paterson said.
But Paterson changed his tune just hours later, saying he was swayed by Cuomo senior adviser, Richard Azzopardi’s citing a state law to defend the governor’s action in The Post story.
Azzopardi told The Post, “Once again, Section 10 NYCRR 415.26 specifically states that a nursing home shall accept and retain ONLY those residents for whom it can provide adequate care — and that standard remained in place during this pandemic. If facilities couldn’t care for patients, New York offered to help with transfers, provided access to 96,000 staffers — which 400 out of 600 homes used — and have given them more than 13 million pieces of protective equipment.”
Paterson then issued an updated statement withdrawing his criticism of Cuomo.
“The statute cited clearly holds that the nursing homes should not have accepted those patients. Fortunately when I was governor I did not have to deal with a global pandemic. So that was not a statue I would readily be familiar with when I discussed this issue on Sunday.”
He said Azzopardi’s statement makes it “crystal clear” that the governor “had to rely on the nursing homes’ advice when determining whether or not they should admit patients.”
“I am more than willing to take my own advice and admit I misspoke on the issue,” Paterson said.
A Paterson spokesman insisted that the former governor did not get chewed out by Cuomo or anyone in his campaign before doing the 180.
Radio host Morano said he thought Paterson was “very honest” during the Sunday interview.
“He praised the governor’s overall performance. He said the governor should admit he made a mistake in one specific area,” Morano said.
Asked about Paterson backpedaling on his criticism of Cuomo, Morano said, “I can only speculate. Perhaps he was concerned about the political ramifications of a former prominent Democratic official being critical of Cuomo.
“Governor Cuomo’s reputation for political retribution is well-known. I cannot say that happened in this case. But you have to keep that in mind. When it comes to Andrew Cuomo’s reputation for seeking retribution, nothing surprises me.”
Paterson was known as the “accidental governor” for taking over the reins when ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer abruptly resigned after getting embroiled in hooker scandal. Paterson, then the lieutenant governor, by law became the state’s chief executive.
Albany insiders speculated a reason Paterson may have backtracked on his criticism of Cuomo is that he’s a lobbyist for Las-Vegas Sands casino, which is campaigning for the right to open a casino in New York City. The state government headed by Cuomo regulates casinos.