Lawmakers in the Finger Lakes region and Rochester-area are growing concerned about the lack of reporters at recent press conferences held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Since the rise of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations- the Governor has significantly reduced the number of events where press has been allowed.
In recent weeks he has noted that ‘due to covid concerns’ those briefings and events would be closed to the press- despite dozens of local, regional, and state officials being shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
Multiple investigations by federal prosecutors, the state Assembly’s judiciary committee, and the state attorney general’s office regarding allegations that the Cuomo administration withheld data about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes have also begun to move forward.
The Journalists Association of New York has called on Gov. Cuomo to stop closing his public events off to the press.
Full press release here: pic.twitter.com/pxYo1J1IQB
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellNY) April 17, 2021
“When we do a call like this, we can get 200 reporters who are listening and calling in,” Cuomo said recently. “If we do an event in [New York City], we can get 50 reporters in a small room like this. So that’s all health department guidance and Dr. Zucker’s advice. But obviously, we want to practice what we preach and we’re preaching social distancing against large gatherings, etc.”
The problem is that things have largely improved in New York and Gov. Cuomo did not hesitate holding briefings throughout the first year of the pandemic, when things were significantly worse from a public health standpoint.
Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, who represents Wayne County, told 13WHAM that it’s all connected to the Governor’s growing list of scandals.
“Clearly this is his way of stifling the press and covering his own tracks with the numerous scandals that surround him,” Manktelow said. “Now is not the time to be doing this, when so many of our constituents rely on the media for updates regarding the pandemic and other important issues. The governor must open these events back up and allow reporters to ask whatever questions they’d like.”
Sen. Pam Helming, who represents the 54th District in the heart of the Finger Lakes told 13WHAM that it comes down to transparency. “The cornerstone of good government is transparency. Journalists, whose work has been instrumental in efforts to ensure transparency in state government, deserve access and answers from the Governor and his administration,” she said. “The businesses and people of this state deserve answers too, and they get much of their information from the news media. If the Governor’s briefings could be safely open to journalists during the height of the pandemic, they can be safely open to journalists now.”