Opinion: CJ Opinion

Despite national leadership role, Cooper remains mostly silent on New York Gov. Cuomo

Gov. Roy Cooper at a July 2020 COVID-19 news briefing. (Pool photo)
Gov. Roy Cooper at a July 2020 COVID-19 news briefing. (Pool photo)

Editor’s note: This piece was updated noon Thursday, March 11, with a comment from Gov. Roy Cooper in an interview with Politico.

Despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s critical role leading Democrat governors nationwide, he has remained mostly silent on the growing scandals engulfing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Calls are mounting from fellow Democrats for the three-term governor of New York to resign. Cuomo is embroiled in scandals that involve sending COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes as well as an attempted cover-up of his actions. Cuomo currently faces multiple accusations of alleged sexual harassment as well.

Cooper, however, told Politico recently, in response to question of whether Cuomo should resign, said,  “It’s a lesson that our actions and words matter. There should be a full investigation.” 

After his 2020 re-election, Cooper was selected for a critical national leadership role by his fellow Democratic governors. In December 2020, Cooper was named vice chair of the Democrat Governors Association (DGA) and then named chairman of the organization for the critical 2022 election year. Cooper and Louisiana Gov. Jon Bel Edwards are the only Democrat governors holding office in the South.

Founded in 1983, the DGA is the only organization dedicated to electing Democratic governors and candidates.

Only 11 states, which includes North Carolina, will elect a governor in 2024.

However, in 2022, Cooper will lead Democrat governors and candidates into battle in a whopping 36 states and three territories.

New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is now calling for the resignation of Cuomo — a sign of escalating pressure from members of his own party to step aside. The Speaker of the New York House of Represenatives also called on the governor to resign.

CJ can’t find any example where Cooper has said, written, or tweeted a single word about one of the largest current political scandals in the U.S.

The North Carolina Republican Party released a statement saying, “Cooper has always put partisan politics first and will likely support Cuomo’s reelection bid as the DGA chair no matter what.”

Cooper has remained silent about Cuomo’s continued role as chair of the National Governors Association, a critical non-partisan governing role.

The nonpartisan association serves as the voice of the nation’s governors and is dedicated to “bipartisan solutions that improve citizens’ lives through state government.”

“The taint of Cuomo’s mounting scandals at the very least will distract from the NGA’s ability to effectively advocate for states during a critical time during this pandemic. Democrat governors like Cooper should publicly demand that Cuomo step down so the work of the NGA goes on untainted by Cuomo’s scandals,” said NCGOP.  

Through his official role, Cooper is a member of the National Governors Association.

On March 3, New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham, current chair of the DGA, told the Washington Post she believes the group will release a statement on the Cuomo allegations. So far, no statement has come.

While falling short of calling for resignation, other Democratic governors have weighed in.

“I don’t have any insights but what I’ve read is deeply concerning and deeply troubling,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. “I would just add anybody who has any concern, expresses a concern, deserves to be heard and it deserves to be completely and thoroughly investigated,” Murphy said in remarks reported by CNBC.

A spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told CNBC she “believes the allegations made against Governor Cuomo are serious and there needs to be a transparent, thorough, and independent investigation into this matter.”

“The press secretary for Maine Governor Janet Mills said, “the Governor is disturbed by the accusations and believes they deserve a thorough and independent investigation.”

While Cooper and the Democratic Governors Association he leads remain silent, the Republican Governors Association is not.

“Governor Cooper’s pattern of silence when it comes to the inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior of men from his own party shows he has no problem putting party politics above everything else,” said Republican Governors Association spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez.

“Last year it was Democrat candidate Cal Cunningham’s infidelity and violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, this year it’s fellow Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment and lying to federal authorities to cover up COVID deaths in nursing homes. At some point, you have to wonder, is Governor Cooper willing to forgive anything as long as it’s a Democrat that’s guilty?”

It’s not as if Cooper never takes a stand on these issues, at least when it appears politically advantageous to him.

Cooper wasted little time calling on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign when the Commonwealth’s Governor was accused of appearing in a racist photo in his 1984 yearbook album.

“This is a reprehensible picture that is deeply disappointing, and I know must come with pain beyond what many of us can even understand,” Cooper said in February of 2019.“Resignation is the only way forward.”

In March of 2018,  Cooper also called on State Rep. Duane Hall to resign after the Wake County Democrat was accused of sexual harassment by several women.

“These allegations are disturbing, and I believe he should resign,” Cooper said in a statement. “We must create a culture where harassment of any kind is unacceptable.

One former N.C governor did offer thoughts last month on Cuomo’s virus response:

“Cuomo didn’t need to lie about nursing home deaths, he should’ve been honest from the beginning,” said former Gov. Pat McCrory. “So, what if the Trump Administration was pressuring New York and pushing a possible investigation. The truth shall set you free in the end, if you don’t have anything to hide.”