Governor Cuomo: "The Trump plan gives the vaccine to private companies. Big drug stores, hospitals, doctor's offices. And that's their main distribution way. That distribution will not get to Black and Brown communities. Black and Brown communities are underserved with healthcare companies. That's why we have healthcare deserts. That's why twice the number of Blacks died during COVID than whites. That's why one and a half times the number of Hispanics died as the number of whites during COVID, because they don't get the same level of healthcare. I don't want to repeat that mistake with the vaccine, where the Black and Brown community that was first on the list to die is now last on the list to receive the vaccine."
Cuomo: "Trump's way is give the private sector companies the drugs, they'll distribute it. Yeah, that takes care of the rich and the white communities, leaves out the poorer and the Black and the Brown community. I'm saying, we need a vaccine distribution plan that gets into those poor communities, where we have teams going into public housing projects, teams going into low-income communities. That's what I did with COVID testing. This should be the most massive army ever assembled in this country to get this vaccine to people. That takes money, and the Trump Administration doesn't want to give the states any funding to do it."
Cuomo: "I called for a community collaborative. Have the elected officials put both sides at the table, the community and the police, and talk it through and redesign a public safety function. Not every 911 call is answered with an arrest. Not every 911 call needs a gun. You don't need to bring a gun to help a mentally ill person. You don't need to bring a gun to a domestic violence situation. You don't need to bring a gun to a situation where a person has a substance abuse issue. Understand public safety has changed, and redesign public safety, and then have the New York City Council pass a new public safety department. And as an incentive, because nobody wants to go near this politically, it's too fraught, I said if they don't do it by next April they're not going to get any state funding."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on Hot 97's Ebro in the Morning on WQHT 97.1 FM.
VIDEO is available here.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Ebro Darden: We have Rosenberg with us and we have the governor of the great State of New York joining us today. We have some serious things to get into with the Governor Andrew Cuomo. Salute sir, how are you?
Governor Cuomo: I'm doing very well. Crazy times, but I'm hanging in there.
Ebro Darden: We saw yesterday you came out and explicitly spoke directly to Black and Brown communities in the State of New York, and I believe nationwide, who were the most affected by COVID-19, and your word to those communities and to the greater kind of issue around vaccinations. I want to give you a platform to repeat what you said.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. Well, you know right now we have a lot of words being said, very little truth. Here's the truth. Pharmaceutical companies have done a great job coming up with vaccines. That's good news. Pfizer, New York company, 90 percent effective vaccine, that's great news. By the way, has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Trump, right. That's Mr. Pfizer, not Mr. Trump. So the pharmaceuticals come up with a vaccine. The next question is, how do you distribute the vaccine and who gets the vaccine? Who's first on the list and who's last on the list? Administering this vaccine is going to be a big deal. It's going to be the hardest thing we've done to date. 330 million vaccines you have to do for this nation, and you have to do it twice, because it requires two dosages. It's a much bigger task than we've done before. The Trump plan gives the vaccine to private companies. Big drug stores, hospitals, doctor's offices. And that's their main distribution way. That distribution will not get to Black and Brown communities. Black and Brown communities are underserved with healthcare companies. That's why we have healthcare deserts. That's why twice the number of Blacks died during COVID than whites. That's why one and a half times the number of Hispanics died as the number of whites during COVID, because they don't get the same level of healthcare. I don't want to repeat that mistake with the vaccine, where the Black and Brown community that was first on the list to die is now last on the list to receive the vaccine.
Ebro Darden: You know, right now, A, I would like to say acknowledging that is appreciate it. The issues that caused this healthcare disparity and these deaths, you know, are long before you were in political office, and we have a lot of work to do there to create an atmosphere where these disparities are reduced significantly. A, we know Trump's a liar. He's always been a liar. He's always just said words that never come to fruition just to cause turmoil and division. What is the truth and what power do you have as the Governor of New York State to make sure that this is done the way you see it should be?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. Trump's way is give the private sector companies the drugs, they'll distribute it. Yeah, that takes care of the rich and the white communities, leaves out the poorer and the Black and the Brown community. I'm saying, we need a vaccine distribution plan that gets into those poor communities, where we have teams going into public housing projects, teams going into low-income communities. That's what I did with COVID testing. This should be the most massive army ever assembled in this country to get this vaccine to people. That takes money, and the Trump Administration doesn't want to give the states any funding to do it. I would pay, by I'm broke because the Trump Administration also has not been funding state governments. That's that whole fight about the stimulus. It takes billions of dollars to do this right, and Trump won't provide any funding. That will leave the Black and Brown community out of the vaccine process.
Peter Rosenberg: So, when the president of the United States gets up and speaks for the first time since losing his election, and spends half of his time attacking you, and saying he's not going to be able to give vaccinations to New York State because you're disagreeable and you don't respect the White House, what's your message back to Trump and the Trump Administration on that?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, I say you're not going to shut me up. You're not going to silence me. You're not going to bully New Yorkers. It just doesn't work, Ebro. I'm a lifetime New Yorker. I was born, I was raised here. You're not going to put your finger in my chest and think that I take a step back. That's not what New Yorkers do. That's his tactic. I've dealt with this man for four years. I knew him from New York before that. If you criticize him he goes on TV or in tweets and he gets nasty and everybody shuts up because they don't want to have a fight with the President. I have no problem fighting with the President and I'm not going to let him abuse the people of New York State. His latest threat was, well I'm not giving New York the vaccine because Cuomo says he doesn't trust the vaccine. It's not that I don't trust the vaccine. Fifty percent of the American people, Pew poll, Kaiser poll, ABC poll, CNN poll, 50 percent say they believe Trump politicized the approval process for this vaccine. That's 50 percent of the American people. If you don't answer that question, Ebro, no one is taking the vaccine and the vaccine is no good if people are unwilling to take it so you have to build up the trust. What I said and seven other states said, we'll set up a medical panel of New Yorkers. The head of our panel is a Nobel Prize laureate and they'll review the approval that the FDA did to make sure it's safe and then I can say to New Yorkers, it's safe, you don't have to trust Trump, because we don't, but we had our own panel, they say it's safe and now we're going to administer it because it's safe, and by the way, I'll be the first person to take the vaccine. This trust issue is going to be a big issue. It's going to be a bigger issue with the Black and Brown community. I can't tell you how many people have come to me and talked to me about the Tuskegee experiment.
Ebro Darden: Just talked about it this morning and we took calls from people, nurses included, or people who claim to be nurses that said the same thing you're saying. They do not trust this vaccine and nurses are saying this has been rushed. What real time frame are we on for this vaccine because we're not really getting, like everyone is up in arms, but we, this isn't happening next week. It's not happening in January. When is this actually going to happen?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, good question. Why is it moving so fast? Two reasons: money and ego. The first drug company that has the vaccine, that is big money. You didn't need Trump to tell the vaccine companies you should develop a vaccine. He had nothing to do with it. Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, they all know this is billions of dollars, whoever gets to the market first. So it's in their economic interest to push this fast. President, it's ego. On the way out the door he wants to be able to say, I solved COVID because I discovered a vaccine. Nah, it's all BS. He didn't do anything. It's the drug companies and nobody is going to trust him saying it's a safe vaccine. But you're going to see this play out, they'll do what's called an emergency authorization by the FDA. I think that could happen as soon as January where the FDA, because Trump will push them, will say we authorized the drug for emergency use, and you could see it starting in January before Biden gets into office and that's why I'm pushing so hard to make sure that we have a process in place to check what the FDA says before people start getting the vaccine in New York.
Peter Rosenberg: Governor, is this moment that we're having right now an opportunity potentially for you and Mayor de Blasio to really get on the same page to go against a common in sadly which is the President of the United States?
Governor Cuomo: Oh yes. I know the Mayor thirty years. He has a job, I have a job. Do we agree on everything? No. We're not supposed to agree on everything. Do we have commonality? For sure we do, and we have commonality on this. We know Trump. Trump has done nothing but hurt New York. And it's personal by the way. He believes he was never treated right by New York because New York always made him a tabloid creation and mocked him, which it did, but that's his own doing.
Ebro Darden: Well, he's a bozo. He would call the newspapers himself. He's a bozo.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, all right. He was mad about that. Then he runs the first time and he loses so he's rejected by New York. He's mad about that. Then the media is located in New York and the media is fake news, he's mad about that. Then, New York City, they paint Black Lives Matter in front of Trump Tower which made him crazy - crazy. The man lost it. He is aggressively anti-New York and then he moves out of New York and says he's going to Florida- he moved to Florida because Florida was a swing state and he thought if he moved to Florida he could say to the Floridians, look I'm one of you now, so vote for me and then I'll take care of you afterwards. It is personal. And then I have been part of it because I've been the most active opponent to Trump in the United States of America. I was against his immigration policy, against the wall, against the separation of children. And I speak up, that's what we do in New York and no other governors, or most other governors, you know they don't want us to take him on because he had a big Twitter following and they didn't want to incur his wrath. That's not my job. My job is to fight for New Yorkers and that's what I do.
Peter Rosenberg: Did he know your dad at all? Like, is it rooted at all in a history with the Cuomos or is this just a political history between the two of you?
Governor Cuomo: No, Ebro, it's even worse. He supported my dad and he supported me He supported my dad and he supported me, and his family did a fundraiser for me. So, it's not me personally early on, it's me personally now because I speak up to him, because he intimidates people, you know. He's got however many followers on his Twitter, he scares people and he uses that. He's the bully in the bar who thinks if he gets in your face you're going to back up. That's who he is and that's what he has always been.
Ebro Darden: In terms of vaccine, before we get to COVID-19 specifics and policy, do you see a world where a vaccine would be mandatory at any level? Has that been discussed are there you know plans for that?
Governor Cuomo: There has been no discussion. I think it's going to be the opposite in the beginning. Once you get past the trust factor on the vaccine, right, then I think it's going to be the opposite. People are going to want the vaccine. People are going to want the vaccine. The question is going to be who gets it first and it's going to be like the COVID test. Oh, the rich people get it first; the connected people get it first. And that's why I'm fighting for a mechanism that brings social equity, where the public housing projects get it first and the low-income communities get it first. Why? Because Blacks died at twice the rate; Blacks are infected at twice the rate. Brown people are infected at twice the rate. That's why they should get the vaccine first. I think it's going to be a fight for the vaccine, initially, whether or not it's mandatory that's going to be down the road and that's going to be controversial. There's a lot of people- what they called the Anti Vaxxers because they oppose vaccines because they think they bring ancillary harm.
Ebro Darden: Let's get to the bars and the restaurants and COVID-19 spikes. At the state level, it seems like the infection rate is around 2.5 percent. There's some hyper-zone- some really heavy zones that are really nasty. Walk us through where we are today, but it seems like everyone else, as you just articulated, is on the page of this thing being crazy into December.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, here's what's tricky Ebro, and you're right about that. Crazy is a relative term. In New York we had the highest infection rate in the United States because we were ambushed by the virus. Don't forget what happened here, worse than any place in the country. So, we started at the highest infection rate when now at one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Only like Vermont and Maine are lower than we are. We are not crazy like we were and by the way, we're not crazy like the other states are crazy. You know, Jersey is up at like 6 percent, Connecticut is up at like 5 percent. So, compared to them we're doing well but I don't accept that. I say compared to our low point we're going up and it's only going to get worse. It's Thanksgiving. It's I'll meet you for a drink; I'm going go to my family's house and my family won't infect me. It's Christmas time and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and let's get together just a few of us. That's where it's spreading.
Peter Rosenberg: Governor, it's Rosenberg again, my parents for example, are talking about coming up here, just the two of them to be alone with me for Thanksgiving. Is that okay? Are people allowed to come to New York from other states? What are the requirements and is there plan moving forward?
Governor Cuomo: One of our big problems, Rosenberg, is people coming into our state. Why? Because almost every other place has a higher infection rate than we do. Almost every other place, unless they're coming from Vermont or Maine, they pose a greater risk to us. And listen to this, you have international countries that are on lockdown - UK, Italy - but you can get on a plane and fly into New York, so the quarantine of people coming into this state is real problem for us, because they are bringing a higher risk. And I'm going through it with my family. While my family would never infect me, they love me - it's not like they're in control of it. "They're good people, they wouldn't be infect me." No, they don't know. Your sister and your mother can be just as dangerous as a stranger on a subway.
Peter Rosenberg: But can those people can test and get a clean test and then come to the state?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, yes. The testing is the key. What we've said now is, "You want to fly New York? Get a test three days before you fly to New York." If you're talking about a Thanksgiving, your mother and father are going to come over, I would say, "I love you. Get a test before you come."
Peter Rosenberg: Are they even stopping people at tunnels and bridges and things of that nature? Or is that not where we're going.
Governor Cuomo: No, we do it at airports - first of all, we've never been here before. A state has never done a quarantine against another state. This is totally new. People drive in from New Jersey - the infection rate is higher. People drive in from Connecticut - the infection rate's higher. You put that together with the holiday season and the fact that wherever they come from, they pose a greater risk to New York, you're going to see the number go up.
Ebro Darden: One of the strengths that I saw from you over this process or over this journey of COVID-19 was your ability as an elected official to admit mistakes, talk about we're learning, even recently, even what you just said, "We've never done this before." It feels like that cause to, that you did that over the many weeks and months of us dealing with COVID-19, it brought a level of calm. Right? You were able to be a human being, and I want to first salute you for that, because I think all of us got to know you in a different light as an elected official. And I hope other politicians and other people who work for the people have learned in this moment - would you say you learned anything as a Governor during COVID-19 and just being on the world's stage and being vulnerable, was that a new thing for you?
Governor Cuomo: That is a hell of a question. It was different for me - it's different than any other politician, because I threw a switch in my head. I'm not a politician. I'm not communicating like a politician. I said to the people of this state when it started - I said to myself, forget the people of the state, it's what you say to yourself in life that matters, I said forget the politics. I'm not running for President. I'm not running for Vice President. I'm not going to Washington. I have no political agenda. I want to be Governor, I think I know how I'm evaluated. But I have no political agenda - I give it up. And I'm not going to do the political sing-song, and the political, "Be careful, don't offend this person, don't offend that person," because I couldn't get through COVID like that. You can't tap dance through COVID. Either you have to be willing to tell the people the truth, and they have to hear it as the truth so they actually follow you, especially New Yorkers who have a very good BS-detector. Either they had to believe me, or we were going to go to hell in a hand basket. Forget all the nuance. Just be 100 percent straight and authentic and just tell people the truth and tell the people how you feel. Yes, I felt vulnerable, and yes I was afraid, and I know it's not politic to say that, "Oh you're going to think I'm weak. You're going to think I'm this." I don't care what you think as long as you think I'm telling you the truth. That's all that matters to me and that's where I am in life. I'm not going to run for anything else. I'm Governor, I believe I've helped as Governor. I want to be Governor as long as the people have me - and, by the way, you guys are too young. It's not who my old man was. There's something to South Jamaica Queens, you know. You grow up with a different set of values.
That's who I am. That's who I am at my core.
Ebro Darden: I just want to give you that, because I've been very critical of you on some social justice issues and things like that on the air and I appreciate you coming on. It definitely gained my respect because we were dealing with something that wasn't political, it was human life. When you see an individual focus like that and work to save lives, no matter whose feelings get hurt, you got my respect, sir. I definitely appreciate you for that.
Peter Rosenberg: Before we let you go, Governor, Ebro mentioned the restaurant part, I want to go back to that. Do you have any plans for that to change? I don't want to dry snitch, it still seems like there's a lot restaurants you see --
Ebro Darden: Hey, you got the Governor on the line. What are you doing man?
Peter Rosenberg: They're building basically indoor enclosures outdoors sometimes. I'm just a little concerned about these things. The 25 percent, are we continuing to go forward with that? Where do we stand with restaurants?
Governor Cuomo: 25 percent, we were thinking of going to 50 percent early on. That's not going to happen. We're at 25 percent, we actually backed off and had them closing earlier at 10 o'clock. If the numbers keep going up, we're going to back off more. For me, this is simple. It's math. We follow the science and we have our hand on a valve. When the infection rate goes up, we start to close the valve until the infection rate comes down.
The valve is controlling the economic activity. On your point about the outdoor dining, you're 100 percent right. I had a conversation with a restauranteur last week who basically built a shed in the parking lot and calls it outdoor dining. It's a shed, outside.
Peter Rosenberg: There's no open wall, you need one side to be open, right?
Ebro Darden: It's outside though. It's inside, but it's outside.
Governor Cuomo: It's inside dining, outside. I'm not playing games with you. That's not what we were talking about. Ebro, just to go back to something. I know you've been critical of me. Are we perfect, no. But remember this when you're taking a shot at me: No state in the United States is more progressive than New York State. Free college tuition, first state to $15 minimum wage, first state to do marriage equality. Most aggressive state on a green economy. No state has done what we have done.
Well, you haven't done everything. Guilty. I haven't done everything. But nobody has done more. Nobody.
Ebro Darden: I wasn't going to go to it -
Governor Cuomo: No, bring it. Bring it.
Ebro Darden: Okay, so NYPD endorsed Donald Trump this year, which was a different type of disrespect I felt, if you're trying to bring the city together. If you're trying to bring people together. If you're trying to gain the trust of a community. When you saw it, what did you think of it?
Governor Cuomo: I agree. I think it was an additional inflammatory to the relationship. I think the relationship between the police department and the community is ruptured. The relationship of trust, relationship of respect is ruptured. That relationship has to work because a divorce is not possible here. You can't realistically say we're going to have no police. No police? It doesn't work, but the relationship is breeched. It was Mr. Floyd, it was Eric Garner, it was Amadou Diallo - it goes back to Rodney King. It's been going on for 20 years. Repair the relationship honestly by acknowledging the problems on both sides.
I called for a community collaborative. Have the elected officials put both sides at the table, the community and the police, and talk it through and redesign a public safety function. Not every 911 call is answered with an arrest. Not every 911 call needs a gun. You don't need to bring a gun to help a mentally ill person. You don't need to bring a gun to a domestic violence situation. You don't need to bring a gun to a situation where a person has a substance abuse issue. Understand public safety has changed, and redesign public safety, and then have the New York City Council pass a new public safety department. And as an incentive, because nobody wants to go near this politically, it's too fraught, I said if they don't do it by next April they're not going to get any state funding.
Ebro Darden: Back to the money because the state is broke. How broke are we? Give me the reality and how do we dig out of this, not only New York City's financial problem but state financial problems, and do you have any predictor on how long it would take?
Governor Cuomo: We don't dig out of it. We don't have a shovel big enough to dig out of it, it's the biggest number in history. We need help from Washington, and that's what Trump wouldn't do, and that's what Biden will do. Biden ran, and I know him and I supported and he's a good man - he will fund state and local governments and we need that to come even close to balancing the budget.
Ebro Darden: Ladies and gentlemen, this has been the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo giving us his time today. I appreciate everything that you gave us today, thank you so much.
Peter Rosenberg: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Ebro. Thank you, Rosenberg.
Ebro Darden: Hope to have you back on soon, sir.
Governor Cuomo: I'm here. I'm here. I don't know where you are, but I'm ready.
Ebro Darden: Alright, take care man.
Peter Rosenberg: Thanks, Gov.