Governor Cuomo: "[Chris] is strong, he's in good shape, he has no underlying illness, he'll be fine. But it's just frightening for everyone. It's disruptive and now he's going to be quarantined in his basement for 2 weeks. Which is like a semi-imprisonment in your own house. He's got the kids upstairs. It's all jarring. It's all disruptive. It's all so disconcerting. How the hell did we get here so fast and it's everywhere? I talked about it in the press conference because I want people to stay home. I say it until I'm blue in the face. People just have this attitude that it doesn't apply to them. They're immune. And no. You're not immune. And Christopher is not immune."
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good afternoon!
Alan Chartock: Hey, it's great to talk to you, Governor. Do you sleep at all these days? It's unbelievable how much work you're doing. I watch, I listen to every word. We play it on WAMC. I listened to every word this morning. I was on my 4-mile walk and I said, "This is all very interesting. You're handling this all very well." And then you told the news of Christopher and I almost fell off my feet. Could you go over that with us again? How did you find out that he had tested positive for the virus?
Governor Cuomo: I'll tell you the truth, doctor. Happy Doctor's Day, by the way, yesterday. It was National Doctor's Day.
Alan Chartock: Not PhD day, go ahead.
Governor Cuomo: There's almost not a morning that I don't wake up to some really disturbing situation. I did his show with him last night. He's on CNN and I did his show, we talked substance, we also tried to lighten it up a little bit because that's our natural way to begin with. We like to tease and have some fun because it's just the way we interact and I also think it's good now. Everything is so heavy news all day long. If you can make people smile a little bit to lighten it up. So I did a show with him and we had some fun. I got him pretty good. He was doing his show from the basement, in a suit with the handkerchief and the whole thing and we had some fun back and forth.
He tried to set me up. He had a tape of him making sauce, Italian sauce, and he has my mother on the cell phone and he's taping it and my mother doesn't know he's taping it. He's trying to get my mother to say she loves him more than me. And he plays the tape on air to set me up on who mom loves more, which is a running joke between us. But we do the show, it's all nice and he calls me this morning and he tells me first thing this morning. Look, he is - we know the data, follow the data, follow the data. He is strong, he's in good shape, he has no underlying illness, he'll be fine.
But it's just frightening for everyone. It's disruptive and now he's going to be quarantined in his basement for 2 weeks. Which is like a semi-imprisonment in your own house. He's got the kids upstairs. It's all jarring. It's all disruptive. It's all so disconcerting. How the hell did we get here so fast and it's everywhere? I talked about it in the press conference because I want people to stay home. I say it until I'm blue in the face. People just have this attitude that it doesn't apply to them. They're immune. And no. You're not immune. And Christopher is not immune. Luckily, my mother was at his house and if she was still at the house, then we'd have a different problem.
When I did Matilda's Law, I never really explained this, but I had a back and forth with Chris on whether or not my mother should be at his house. He didn't want to leave her at the apartment alone, right. Nobody wants to leave their parent, an elderly person, in the apartment alone. We went back and forth. I said, "You're not doing her any favors. You have kids, they're coming in and out. They go on a playdate, they come back." But luckily she wasn't there and that's when I did Matilda's Law to make it clear to people you're not helping a loved one doing this.
But yes, he's going to be quarantined for two weeks. I talked to him, he said even the dog won't come down the stairs. But you know he's so misunderstood, Chris. They see people through the dimension of their job and he's on CNN every night and he's feisty, he's arguing. He's pushing back, tough, he's combative. He is the most genuinely sweet, sensitive, really loving guy. He's just a beautiful human being, and my father used to just delight in his sweetness. He's big and people think he's tough because he's big and he works out all the time. But he's just a really sweet, loving, beautiful person, and they don't see that part of him, and this kills him. They say you can't touch your kid for two weeks, you know. Maybe you infected your kids. Maybe you infected your wife. Just on a very human level it's just miserable. It's just miserable.
Alan Chartock: Does he have symptoms?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. He has a fever, he has shortness of breath, he has the chills. The shortness of breath is frightening to people. I was talking to a doctor the other day. He says a lot of people, the shortness of breath brings on an anxiety attack. When you can't get a full breath, that can panic you and then once you panic now you have an anxiety attack and now you're really off to the races. He has and we were talking about that this morning, with Chris, and I said, "Yeah that's what it is," but only being able to take a shallow breath is very troubling. And so he has that and he has a fever. And he was with people who tested positive afterwards, so he knows he was with positive people, and this damn thing just transfers so easily. And you know it's the reason I told the story at the press conference - "only people who are older, only people who are not in shape." Christopher takes more vitamin pills per day than most people ingest in food, you know.
Alan Chartock: How about, hate to say this, how about you? You haven't been, at least according to press reports, you haven't been tested yourself. You have been spending a lot of time with a lot of people - I won't go out of my house to be honest with you. You're doing it - do you think you should test yourself?
Governor Cuomo: For me, it's simple. I don't meet the protocol for any testing, but it's also simple, and by the way my Health Commissioner has advised me not to do what I do and the State Police have advised me not to do what I do, but I do. But I don't have a choice really - it's not how I operate, right. I say to the National Guard every disaster that I've been out there with them - and I've been out there with them a lot. I now recognize them by face, when you add up the Superstorm Sandy, the snowstorms. I say to them at the first meeting I will never ask you to go anywhere that I won't go, and I'll never ask you to do anything that I won't do myself, whether it's shoveling seven feet of snow in Buffalo, or bailing out a basement on the South Shore of Long Island. So, that's how I have to do my job. If I get sick and I wind up having to stay quarantined in my office, well that's where I would be if I followed their advice in the first place, right, except I'd be sick. But, I can't do it any other way, Alan.
Alan Chartock: Yeah. Look, Governor, let's say that you develop the symptoms, let's say that you get tested, let' say you have the thing, could you do what you're doing now? Is there a Plan B? Would you do it from your house, from the mansion and say, "Okay, nobody can touch me but I'm going to do my job"? How would you handle it?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, that's what I could do. I could go to some room and sit there, and look, Chris is still doing his show from his basement.
Alan Chartock: Oh is he? No kidding.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. So, I could -- there's a lot of these Governors, they all stay in their office and they just do it by live video. I could do that. You know, it depends on how sick you get, right? You have a high fever, you know, maybe you're down for a few hours. But yeah, then I would just basically do the job like that. But unless you make me do it like that -- also, I have a problem with the concept police are going out there every day, nurses are going out there every day, nurses are going to these testing drive-throughsevery day, doctors are showing up every day. I'm the Governor of the State, I'm going to say, "I have to stay home. I'm afraid."
Alan Chartock: Oh no. I get that, but I'm only asking this important question: if you develop the fever, if you develop the symptoms because you certainly were articulate. I listened to every bit of it on radio this morning, you were unbelievable. If you develop the symptoms and you've also told everybody to not be irresponsible about it, then you have to make a change, right? I mean that's the whole point.
Governor Cuomo: Yes. Be as responsible as you can be. The police officer still has to go out there and pull you over, still has to walk through a door way to help a domestic violence victim, so be as responsible as you can be in the job. I'm being as responsible as I can be in my job the way I do it. I don't do it like some other Governors do it, I understand that. But, as I do I'm being as responsible as I can, and then if I get sick and have to do it at home I'll get a video and figure out how they touch the video. Give me a little button nose, Alan. Take the bags out of my eyes maybe. I could even look better on the video, maybe.
Alan Chartock: That might be hard.
Governor Cuomo: I didn't say look good, I said look better. I didn't say look good. I didn't set the bar that high.
Alan Chartock: Okay. I want to talk to you, today is supposed to be budget day. You're supposed to have the New York State budget all rounded up. Anybody giving you trouble or, you know, are they giving you a lot of leeway? I noticed you said, "let's keep it on topic this morning," meaning the coronavirus, but today's a big day. Ordinarily this would be the sort of huge celebration of a budget on-time. Is it going to be on-time? Is it not going to be on-time? Are there problems?
Governor Cuomo: Look, yes there are problems. The numbers are a problem.
Alan Chartock: Sure.
Governor Cuomo: What you're asking a legislature to do is vote on a budget where the numbers are all bad news, right?
Alan Chartock: Right.
Governor Cuomo: Normally, yeah there's bad news, but there's some good news. Legislators are not accustomed to doing a budget where it's all bad news. Now there is some policy items in there that are good news that people have been waiting for for a long time.
Alan Chartock: What are they?
Governor Cuomo: Well a lot of the policy initiatives that we have in there, the anti-terrorism legislation is in there. I haven't given up on all the policy that I went through back in January. But the numbers are the problem and the numbers are a problem.
Alan Chartock: So you haven't got the money. You haven't got the money.
Governor Cuomo: That's right.
Alan Chartock: The cuts have got to come from somewhere. I think you made a little bit of news with us when we talked before about the money coming out of potentially education. Education is the big kahuna right now. For all these years we know how the game is played. The schools ask for a lot more. Legislatures goes along and says give them a lot more. You give them a little bit more. Can't do that this time, can you?
Governor Cuomo: Can't do that. Cannot do that this time because there literally is no money and that is a tough, tough vote. It's a tough reality. But by the way, it's a tough reality and I have nothing else to say about it. When they say this is really terrible, yes, it's really terrible. The only thing I can say to them is it also reflects the reality that everybody is living. I mean our unemployment claims, I can't even get the phone system and the internet to keep pace with the number of unemployment claims so people get it. People get it and I think they will respect the honesty of it. See I argue it the other way with them. We paper over the cuts and say, well, we're expecting that the federal government is going to deliver a big chunk of cash to New York even though the federal government has never delivered anything to New York in the past four years. We expect the economy is going to bounce back in a few months. I think that would be, first of all it would be deceptive. I don't believe that. I don't think anybody believes that and the credibility of our government is look, we tell you the truth, whether it's good, bad, indifferent. That is true and I'm proud of that and they're proud of that. They've told the public the truth and this truth is an ugly painful truth.
Alan Chartock: So are you going to be late with the budget?
Governor Cuomo: I don't know. I'll tell you in about 10 hours.
Alan Chartock: And are you talking to them? I mean what happens in this thing? They can't come into a room with you, right? I mean they are in, they're in basic quarantine the two leaders. It's not going to be three men in a room. It's not even going to be two men and a woman in the room. What are you going to do?
Governor Cuomo: It's everything by telephone. This is society without intimacy. We've moved to a society without physical contact and physical presence.
Alan Chartock: Are they scared to mess with you? I just saw a poll, astounding poll, something like 71 percent approval rating in New York State. That's huge and coming up fast in the national polls. I'm not going to bother you with presidential talk because I know you don't like it. I'm not going to do it anymore even though I just wrote a column how it could all work. So let's just assume, for a second, that you have a lot behind you. They're not, the speaker isn't at 71 percent. The majority leader isn't at, the Senate isn't at 71 percent. Does that give you a little extra oomph to work with?
Governor Cuomo: I don't think so. Look, I've been at 71 percent before, right. And then I passed the gun law, which is one of my proudest accomplishments, and then I was no longer at 71 percent. No, I don't think it works for them that way, you know, their politics are different. The education aid, they're worried about the teachers' union, they're worried about their local school districts, they're worried about their local community and what they bring home to their local community. That's more their politics than statewide politics. They represent a district.
Alan Chartock: But it's got to come from somewhere. Obviously, we knew that there was a $6 billion shortfall, it was supposed to come out of the localities helping more with Medicaid. Obviously that can't happen anymore, not with this coronavirus. So where's the money coming from?
Governor Cuomo: They will acknowledge that intellectually. It's just practically, they don't want to go home and say, the cupboard is bare.
Alan Chartock: So what do they want to do?
Governor Cuomo: That's the quandary. That's the dilemma that we're in. They get that there's no money. Nobody's arguing that we have a different perception of reality. The reality is the problem. And that's what, look, Carl and Andrea, the speaker and the Senate leader, they have to look at a conference and say, I know it's all bad news. And by the way, it's all bad news.
Alan Chartock: But, I'm so sorry, I'm getting so frustrated here. Which is that obviously the three of you, and then the conferences have to come along and come up with a plan about how you're going to make up a deficit. New York State has to have a balanced budget, right. No chicanery, you've got to have a balanced budget. So the money's got to come from somewhere.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, and there is no realistic option. You could theoretically say, I believe the federal government is going to deliver $10 billion to New York State. And I believe they're going to do that in the next several months, and therefore I could $10 billion. You could say, I think the economy is going to bounce right back, because this virus is going to be over in five weeks, and then the stock market's going to go right through the roof. I don't believe any of those things are plausible. So yeah, we're just with a painful reality. and they get it. Look, Speaker Carl Heastie's a pro. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a pro. It's just bad news, and politicians are not in a bad news business.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, but I'm sorry to be so insistent, but where's it coming from? What have you got? I mean you're the governor, you've got to make the proposal, it's your budget. Is it going to come out of education? Will it come out of education big? Will it be a cut in education? Will it be we're not giving you any extra like we do every year? You know, it can't come out of Medicaid, obviously, not with what we've got now. Where's it coming from?
Governor Cuomo: My proposal, which has never been done before but is sort of the ultimate honesty, this is where we are today, and we close a budget at this. If, if we get more money, the economy bounces back, federal government delivers a lot of money, we will increase the budget, and we'll do it quarterly. If the economy goes the other way, we'll cut the budget, and we'll do it quarterly.
Alan Chartock: That gives you a lot of power, doesn't it? I mean, now you have the power to, basically, ongoing, you don't have to come in with the big ugly, the budget, you can now say, you know every quarter you can say I am the Governor and this is what I've determined.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, no, I'd let them be part of it. As a matter of fact, I'd let them do it. Do you think they want to come back here every quarter and cut the budget?
Alan Chartock: They don't want to come back now.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, and they certainly don't want to come back and cut a budget, that I can promise you.
Alan Chartock: Okay, so let me go Upstate a little bit. Albany Med has a lot of people who are testing positive on the staff and that's the big kahuna, that's the big, you know, place. So, you've got to balance between what's going on in New York City and what's going on Upstate. You may want to borrow some people from Upstate and send them downstate, I heard your remarks this morning. But of course this is now a matter of allocation of resources, isn't it?
Governor Cuomo: That is going to be the $64,000 question on all of this, it's going to happen nationwide. It is going to be an overwhelming of our hospital systems. That's what this is going to come down to. It's not going to be any fancier or more complex than that. Your hospitals will not be able to keep pace with the number of people coming through the door, and the first collapse is going to be the staff. The staff will get sick, the staff will be overwhelmed. I can't tell you how many nurses say to me, "Besides the physical fatigue, I'm emotionally fatigued. It's too much. The fear is too high. I'm afraid I'm going to get it. I'm afraid I'm going to bring it home. These patients are all in terrible condition." Remember, this virus is so vicious, it attacks the weakest people. So the people who get in trouble first are the people who had serious problems. That's why they're all intubated so quickly. Who had cancer, who had emphysema, who had heart disease, and then this disease hits them and now they're in serious trouble right away. You know, nobody is walking in the door anymore with a sprained ankle, with a knife wound. It's walking in the door with emphysema and overweight and 67 years old and they have to be intubated.
Alan Chartock: Well, so, let me just ask you about this budget thing one more time. Marijuana, you wanted it in the budget? Are you going to get it?
Governor Cuomo: We're not going to get there. I don't believe we get there. I don't believe we get there because in truth that is something that had to be talked through and worked through and the Legislature wasn't here. I was doing this COVID virus. That requires time to do it right, Alan, you know, that is not a yes, no. That's a how does it work, how about the police, how many licenses, who gives out the licenses, how do you do minority empowerment, how do we coordinate with Connecticut and New Jersey. And no one has really had the time to work those things through. So I don't think we get there on that.
Alan Chartock: Okay, let me go to another place. I don't know if you and I have ever talked, you know we have I think, there was a question as to whether in order to get on the ballot, a third party had to get a certain amount of signatures of the Legislature, and you went along with that or come together on that, you came up with a whole bunch of new signatures which we think are going to make the Working Families Party basically at risk. Now, somebody writes me a letter and says ask him if he is going to put that in the budget. He is allowed to put that in the budget to become law since the court of appeals of New York State said that was illegal to do it the way that it had been done. What do you got?
Governor Cuomo: I don't even remember a court of appeals decision on that. So, I would have to check.
Alan Chartock: I would have to check to. God forbid I get that wrong.
Governor Cuomo: It works for me if I get it wrong.
Alan Chartock: Well, you are not going to put it in the budget, right? I mean that's not really a budgetary item, is it?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, again I'll check. I don't even remember the court of appeals doing anything on this topic. But I may be wrong, I have been focused on different things.
Alan Chartock: Amazon has fired a worker who led a walkout on Staten Island on Monday claiming inadequate safety standards - that is their workers' saying - and insufficient pay during the pandemic. Are you worried about this happening in other sectors that are deemed essential to the pandemic?
Governor Cuomo: Well, the firing of the worker, we have labor laws. If a labor law was violated in the firing, that is something that we will investigate. I am worried about people getting sick - essential workers getting sick. I am worried about essential workers getting scared and not wanting to show up. That I am worried about. You know the number of police officers who are getting sick is going up. And we basic social functions that have to continue, right? We have to move people. There has to be transportation. There has to be law and order. There has to be food. There has to be water. So you don't lose your mind, the internet has to work. And the more people who get sick or frightened, the harder that gets. So, I am very concerned about that.
Alan Chartock: I have to say, Governor, that we are trying to avoid a certain subject. And I know you talked to Christopher about this, and I know that you have told me about this. But there is a certain amount of demand out there that you be the candidate either for President or Vice President. I know you can get angry and I don't want to get you necessarily angry at me. But you know, if duty calls, you have talked about duty as governor, if the United States needs you why not?
Governor Cuomo: I don't get angry.
Alan Chartock: You get even.
Governor Cuomo: No, no, no. Look, in his job, in my job, if I did not fight for what I believe in Alan, if I did not fight with the legislature to pass a piece of legislation that I believe in, if I didn't fight for a budget on time, if I didn't fight to get airports built, I would be a failure. I mean they want to have it both ways. Oh, you have, he has sharp elbows. What do you think, I am playing cricket here? You think you pass marriage equality without working hard as hell. You think you pass $15 minimum wage, you think you pass every budget on time -
Alan Chartock: And how does that have to do with running for president or accepting vice president if offered? If offered, you would?
Governor Cuomo: Because I was avoiding your question and I was responding to your first half, which was I know you get angry. I chose to respond to that part of the question. So, you can't ask a question with two parts because I will pick the part that I prefer. You asked a two part question. I took part A.
Alan Chartock: So, you did. Anyway, Governor Andrew Cuomo I am going to say something which is going to get my colleagues, my friends, maybe a few of them to say you should not have said that. But I think you are doing a hell of a job and it is extraordinary. When you were on this morning, I had a lump in my throat. I know that is too much to say, but I want to thank you for what you are doing. Thank you so much for being here this afternoon. It means a great deal to all of us.
Governor Cuomo: I want to thank you for what are doing. And I want to than you Alan for the years that I have spent listening to you and learning from you even when I did not like what I heard. I learned from you. I meant it.
Alan Chartock: I appreciate that so much. Governor, we hope will see you again and thank you for making this time for us. I appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Be safe. Be smart please - everyone. Thank you.