White House press secretary Jen Psaki has already gained some notoriety for repeatedly saying she will “circle back” in an apparent attempt to avoid answering difficult questions from reporters.
On Friday, Psaki took a slightly different approach when she was asked about the bombshell New York attorney general’s report indicating Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration vastly undercounted the number of coronavirus deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
During a media briefing at the White House, a reporter asked whether President Joe Biden would like a federal investigation into the issue. Psaki dodged the question.
“I’ve seen those reports,” she responded. “I would say any investigation I would point you to the Department of Justice.”
“Does the White House think that it should be looked into further?” the reporter followed up.
“Again, any investigation would be led by the Justice Department,” Psaki said.
She then used the moment to take a jab at the Trump administration.
“We’re in a new age where they’re independent and they will determine what steps they take moving forward,” Psaki said, referring to the claims that former President Donald Trump used the Justice Department for political purposes.
A report from New York Attorney General Leticia James, made public Thursday, said the Cuomo administration undercounted the number of COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent, The New York Times reported.
The Cuomo administration undercounted coronavirus-related deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50%, New York’s attorney general said. https://t.co/3L81TxJdNv
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 28, 2021
The Cuomo administration had a directive in place from March to May that required some nursing homes to take in coronavirus patients, and it contributed to the high number of nursing home deaths in the state during the pandemic.
“Government guidance requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes may have put residents at increased risk of harm in some facilities and may have obscured the data available to assess that risk,” the attorney general’s report said.
Cuomo, who wrote a book about his leadership during the coronavirus crisis, went on the defensive during a news conference Friday.
“If you think there was a mistake, then go talk to the federal government,” the governor said. “It’s not about pointing fingers or blame. It’s that this became a political football.”
In addition to assigning blame to the federal government, he also said “who cares” about where the deaths happened when talking about the attorney general’s report.
“If you look at New York State, we have a lower percentage of deaths in nursing homes than other states. A third of all deaths in this nation are from nursing homes. New York state, we’re only about 28 percent, only, but we’re below the national average in number of deaths in nursing homes. But who cares — 33, 28, died in a hospital, died in a nursing home — they died,” the governor said.
Cuomo spent months placing the blame on the Trump administration to cover up his failed leadership. Now that he has the executive branch on his side under Biden, expect a lot more to go unnoticed.
Although James is a Democrat, it was wise of her to release this report, and hopefully her team will continue to pursue the truth about what really happened in nursing homes last year.
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