Phone Calls From Schwartz Are Politics At Their Worst

We certainly hope that Larry Schwartz, New York’s vaccine “czar,” is telling the truth when he says calls to gauge loyalty to Gov. Andrew Cuomo have nothing to do with vaccine supplies to counties.

Certainly, Schwartz should be able to understand the county executives’ doubts.

News broke Sunday in the New York Times and the Washington Post that Schwartz has been calling county executives to gauge their loyalty to the Democratic governor amid a sexual harassment investigation. One Democratic county executive, who was not named by the newspapers, was so disturbed by the call from Schwartz that the executive filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general’s office on Friday, the newspapers reported. The executive feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if the executive did not indicate support for Cuomo.

If a county-level Democrat is that concerned, what are rural counties represented by Republican county executives to think? Republicans representing rural counties have been begging for doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — and it’s chilling to think what happens if there is loyalty test being administered by a longtime Cuomo aide who is also running the state’s vaccine distribution system. It’s been less than a month, after all, when a federal official told NBC News that Chautauqua County was a leading candidate for one of four federal vaccine sites before bowing to pressure from the governor’s office to move the site to a bigger city. “The state prevailed,” said a federal official who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Cuomo denied the state playing any role in the decision nor even knowing about the clinics — a statement that is frankly hard to believe.

At best, Schwartz’ phone calls were naive and foolish because they intermingle politics and health policy at a time when the two must remain separate. At worst, Schwartz’ phone calls are politics at their worst that provide even more ammunition to the argument that Cuomo needs to be impeached.


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