After his widely watched briefing from COVID-19 truth-teller and seemingly lone voice of Trump administration reason Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier in this pandemic nightmare, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah brought on another public figure who in no way couches stark truths about the ongoing trauma of the coronavirus’ effects on the country in ego-fluffing, blame-dodging platitudes. Yay? But seriously, after months of hearing Trump and his cronies spew spurious misinformation, buck-passing, and outright childish, petulant bullshit straight from the White House briefing room, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has proven himself America’s tough-love de facto leader when it comes to laying out the harsh truths surrounding the disease. Even if Noah jokingly wished he wouldn’t.
“I haven’t slept at night, and I feel like you could have carried some of that burden for me,” chided Noah, with Cuomo responding that, in the time of a truly unprecedented and deadly crisis where facts, unvarnished truth, and, yes, scaring the hell out of battle-hardened New Yorkers is the only way to potentially save lives, that’s just too bad for Trevor. Noting that New Yorkers—especially those 8-plus million in NYC—are “a defiant bunch” (and there’s some euphemistic spin), Cuomo explained that he knew that soft-pedaling the danger and the truth in order to make people feel better was a sure way to make even more people dead. “I’m not in the business of not telling the truth,” Cuomo said with customary bluntness, “or trying to manipulate, or I’m only going to tell you what you can handle.”
Noting that yesterday’s reported New York death toll of 474 people brought the number of coronavirus deaths in his state over 15,000, Cuomo compared that to the 2,700 people who died in the city’s former worst calamity ever, explaining feelingly, “That was supposed to be the worst experience of my life.” Citing the current number, Cuomo told Noah, “That weighs heavily on me. I can sit here and say to you, I believe that we did everything that could possibly be done,” but that, as he put it, “I am still the governor . . . that is still a very heavy burden to bear.” (That said, Noah never asked Cuomo about his controversial actions regarding the spread of the virus in New York’s overcrowded jails and prisons, however.)
And while any such statement of human emotion, responsibility, or empathy is essentially shade thrown at Trump and the Republican politicians planning to ease up on coronavirus restrictions just when they’re starting to show the barest results, Cuomo wasn’t there calling names. He cited his appreciation that Donald Trump held a meeting with him on Tuesday in order to have a “very honest, open, granular discussion about the subject of testing,” which is nice. He did note with a shrug, “The president doesn’t like me,” while saying, “Who cares how he feels or how I feel. My feelings are irrelevant—just do the job.” As for other politicians, like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA), who are planning to re-open gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and other non-essential businesses (because, ’Murica?), Cuomo mocked the idea of maintaining a six-foot distance while cutting someone’s hair—and the resulting haircut should anyone somehow manage the feat.
As for the future, Cuomo wasn’t blowing any sunshine up Americans’ sun-deprived asses, either. Refusing to speculate on when New Yorkers might start living something like normal lives again, Cuomo said flatly, that he’ll listen to the data, only giving some indications by speaking in terms of weeks, rather than, say seasons. So that’s something? Saying that he’s very aware that “People are about to burst,” and that this pandemic represents “PTSD for an entire generation,” Cuomo answered Noah question about the sometimes personal nature of his own press conferences by citing the COVID-19 diagnoses of his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo and his family. Calling the family’s separate quarantines under the same roof “a science fiction nightmare,” the governor expressed his own helplessness at not being able to help, saying that, “He’s my little brother, I love him more than anybody. I’m the governor of the state and there’s nothing I can do.” (Chris Cuomo has ended his quarantine, although wife Cristina has not, and the couple’s 14-year-old son was just diagnosed with coronavirus.) In parting, Cuomo stressed the need for testing, examining the potential economic fallout, and more testing, before once more refusing to make Noah’s nights any more peaceful by noting, “You’re in control of nothing at the end of the day.”