Larger attendance at wedding receptions and other catered events is now being allowed in New York, and the Mets and Yankees have been given the OK to host thousands of guests under reasonable guidelines regarding social distancing and face masks. At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent "public" appearances have been all-but closed to the public — and members of the press wishing to attend on their behalf — with the explanation that the restrictions are necessary because of COVID-19.
But it isn't difficult to see that the real reason for keeping the press away is to avoid facing questions about sexual harassment, nursing home data, favoritism with COVID-19 testing, a shady book project and more. These are certainly subjects the governor would prefer not to be asked about, but he's the one who has decided to stay in office despite the strong volume of bipartisan calls for his resignation and impeachment.
Cuomo's most recent "closed press" events were held Monday and Tuesday in which he talked about COVID-19 vaccinations while a bunch of people in masks stood behind him. Even during the media conference calls he's held periodically in the past couple of months that allow reporters to ask questions, the governor's office is hand-picking the reporters who ask questions and they are typically limiting those sessions to about four questions — hardly a model of news media accessibility.
This tactic comes at a crucial time for New York state government, with a critical state budget being finalized and the battle against COVID-19 at a serious juncture with vaccinations needing to be accelerated as infection rates remain stubbornly elevated. Such a time requires a full-blown press conference that would allow reporters to cover a wide range of issues.
Cuomo insists he's still capable of governing, but good governance should not include a duck-and-hide approach to the journalists asking questions on behalf of the public. It's time to stop with the charade and return to in-person press conferences, even though the governor is not going to be comfortable with all of the questions.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.