Weighing in on Cuomo’s newfound fame



Samantha Unger

In the last two months, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become a household name thanks to his acclaimed daily press briefings, Twitter updates on COVID-19 and comical sparring with his brother Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Prime Time.”

His briefings, featuring shots of state officials sitting six feet apart from each other at an exceptionally long table and accompanied by homemade PowerPoint slides, are live-streamed on Twitter and shown on cable news stations like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

For some University students, these press conferences— “part briefing, part sermon, part inspirational talk,” per the Washington Post—provide reassurance and comfort, establishing a sense of fact-based leadership where others feel President Trump has lacked.

University junior Carla Peregallo, an international student from Argentina, said, “I’m trying to stay away from the news a little so my anxiety doesn’t get bad. I only check Twitter news once or twice a day and there is always something about Cuomo there. He is pretty good at talking to people and calming them, but at the same time he still tells us what we need to know and advises us on what to do.”

“It’s hard right now because it’s just me in my New York apartment and I can’t go home anytime soon, so it’s comforting to be updated with helpful and factual information,” she continued.

University junior Sarah Perniciaro commented, “I watch his press conferences every morning and it’s been nice hearing a reassuring voice. He’s not perfect, but I think he’s doing what he can at this time.”

With hashtags like #cuomosexual trending on Twitter and a wave of memes inspired by his PowerPoints, Cuomo, once on the sidelines, has somehow transformed into a figure of comedic relief during the pandemic.

“It’s been really interesting to watch him become not just a strong model of leadership but a social media icon too,” continued Perniciaro.

If you miss the daily briefings, the famously stoic governor can also be seen cracking jokes on his younger brother Chris Cuomo’s nightly CNN show.

The pair often debate on which of them is their mother’s favorite and urge each other to call her more frequently. They also offer anecdotes about their teenage years, including Gov. Cuomo recalling the many times Chris broke curfew.

“I really like watching Cuomo and his brother on TV. Their conversations are really funny,” added Peregallo.

Now set to appear on the cover of the May issue of Rolling Stone, Cuomo’s newfound glorification and heroization does not sit well with other University students.

“I honestly think a huge problem right now is that being better than Trump is enough to be considered ‘good,’ so whenever any politicians call him out or act rationally, they’re automatically considered heroes without any question,” said University senior Alex Bosworth.

“Cuomo is getting tons of praise right now. In reality, he is using prison labor to bottle hand sanitizer, trying to cut Medicaid and isn’t really addressing the COVID outbreaks in New York prisons. I think it’s really weird that people are hyping him up as a hero when the state has had the most deaths in the country. I just don’t think calling out the president automatically makes you a hero.”

Bosworth is referring to Cuomo’s “New York State Clean” hand sanitizer plan—in March, he announced that prison inmates will begin producing 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer every week to be distributed among the state for free.

According to Vice, workers at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York said they are doing nothing more than taking existing hand sanitizer and rebottling it into “NYS Clean” labeled packaging.

Inmates are bottling the sanitizer 24 hours a day in three eight-hour shifts, are paid under a dollar an hour and prohibited from actually using the sanitizer.

Cuomo has also recently come under fire for his plan to cut the budgets of the state’s Medicaid system and other social programs by $2.5 billion a year.

The initially structured plan would have made the state ineligible for the $6.7 billion in emergency federal assistance for New York’s Medicaid program for the duration of the pandemic.

At the end of a press conference on April 2, however, Cuomo’s budget director Robert Mujica announced their solution—the cuts would be delayed until after the crisis passes so the state can “get its share of federal money and slash the program later,” said the Huffington Post.

Although University students remain divided on their stances, Cuomo’s leadership at the epicenter of the pandemic has quickly thrust him into the national spotlight, bringing along both an increase in fans and critics.

While he currently has no intention to run for president, how he handles the remainder of the pandemic as governor with the nation watching will have an effect on the way people—not just New Yorkers—see him, perhaps inspiring support for a potential White House run in the future.