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Cuomo’s office terrorized me for doing my job as a journalist

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Cuomo’s office terrorized me for doing my job as a journalist

It was 4:30 a.m., so I pulled the bathroom door shut in my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment to answer the phone without waking my then-5-year-old. On the line was Melissa DeRosa, Gov. Cuomo’s then-communications director, now his second-in-command. She was threatening to destroy me.

By now, thanks to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim blowing the whistle on the threats he received in a call from Cuomo, the public has a glimpse of the bullying practiced by the governor and his top brass.

Many Americans are shocked, having bought into the compassionate persona Cuomo conveyed in his pandemic briefings. But Kim’s revelations came as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with the governor. As one Albany insider texted me last week, “everyone has an Andrew Cuomo story.”

While the April 2014 call I received from DeRosa didn’t come directly from the governor, I knew it bore the full weight of his power. City & State, the New York politics magazine I edited at the time, was about to publish a story exposing Cuomo’s machinations to distort the final report issued by the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.

The manipulation we documented put the lie to the governor’s public proclamation that it would be a fully independent body with the authority to probe graft in Albany wherever it found it. In reality, as soon as the commission touched the governor’s own office, he hastily shut it down.

I started getting pushback from the governor’s office as soon as we called requesting comment. In a barrage of calls, his media handlers pushed me to spike the article, alternately approaching me with carrot (a hot exclusive to be named later) and stick. By 4:30 a.m. — our piece was scheduled to publish at 5 — I was only getting the stick.

Seven years later, I don’t recall precisely everything DeRosa hurled at me, though I’m positive she vowed to “destroy” my career and take revenge on my publication. I remember vividly how I felt: scared.

I had no reason to think these were idle threats. I was fully aware of the governor’s volcanic temper and track record of vindictiveness. If he wanted to crush me, he could and likely would.

This was a serious gut check for me. I worried about losing my livelihood, damaging my future, letting down my wife and daughter. But fortunately, I had bosses and colleagues who stood by the quality of our work. So we published the piece, like the press is supposed to do in the face of intimidation.

I’m no hero. The members of the Albany press corps regularly endure abusive calls like I received. And sometimes those calls come from the governor himself.

Shrewdly, the governor rings up reporters out of the blue to praise them when he likes what they write. This personal touch wins him goodwill. Receiving such a call is something of a rite of passage for Albany reporters. Unfortunately, so too is getting a call from the governor when he’s breathing fire.

Cuomo doesn’t dispute that talking tough is what he does. He thinks it’s a virtue. But the abuse he privately metes out amounts to a systematic campaign to chill negative coverage of his administration. And it works.

Editors kill legitimate stories because of his threats; reporters shy away from promising tips; sources stay silent.

There are many reasons the media don’t expose the governor’s bullying. Albany reporters fear that if the governor freezes them out, they won’t be able to do their jobs effectively. Some journalists see speaking up as a violation of the unwritten code of “off-the-record” conversations. Others just assume that “everyone knows” how Cuomo operates, so it isn’t worth reporting.

For years, entertainment reporters justified their silence about the #MeToo monsters in the industry by telling themselves that “everyone knows.” But the public didn’t know. Many of the perpetrators’ future victims didn’t know. And so these thugs went on operating with impunity.

Until last week, most New Yorkers didn’t know about Cuomo’s despicable ways. But they should have. Journalists are agents of accountability. It’s time for New York’s reporters to step up and tell their own Cuomo stories.

Morgan Pehme, a documentary filmmaker, served as editor-in-chief of City & State from 2012 to 2014.

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Opinion

Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu showed the opposite of grace as he exited from power on Sunday.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

The Issue: The discussion of law and order at last week’s Democratic debate for mayor.

If any one of these five candidates becomes mayor, it will be the continuation of the de Blasio era (“Crime focus of Dem debate,” June 11).

Many of them are in favor of defunding the Police Department, which is why there is so much crime, and shootings are rising every day.

The people of this city had better wake up when they go to vote. Haven’t we had enough of this? When will it stop? These candidates will not put an end to all this.

Rob Johann

Queens

Thinking that a Republican candidate could not win the mayoral race in New York, I switched my party to Democrat so I could vote.

After listening to all the Democratic candidates during the debate last week, I want to immediately switch my party back to Republican and vote for Curtis Sliwa.

He is our only hope to live in a city that values law and order. He won’t cave to these left-wing zealots who will further destroy our city and our quality of life.

We need a mayor who can bring back the tourists, help our economy and ensure a better life for all of us.

We cannot let the city go into further decline with any of these Democratic candidates. Please, wake up and vote for someone who will lift all of us up.

Susan Green

Manhattan

The fact that Andrew Yang is slipping in the polls is the only good news in the mayoral race.

Eric Adams is talking about crime, while Yang thinks the biggest issues for the city are AI and climate change.

If Yang wins, people will be dreaming of “the good old days” under Mayor de Blasio, formerly thought to be the bottom of the barrel.

Andrew Delaney

Miami, Fla.

I am not impressed by any of the Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City.

What each of them is proposing will cause further crime, divisiveness and decay, raise taxes, make life more miserable for residents and visitors and drive more families out of the city.

What does it take to get through to the New York voter? How bad does it have to get before they abandon a party that is becoming more idiotic with every election cycle?

Take a look at cities and states that have been doing well under Republican leadership and consider voting Republican.

D.M. Diana

Greeley, Pa.

Even Adams is falling for it. He said the “solution” to city violent crime is to reach out to youth and improve mental-health services.

These chic answers are a guarantee that innocent New Yorkers will continue to be murdered, raped, thrown onto subway tracks and maimed.

Get the violent off the streets first. Whether they are criminal or mentally ill, sort that out afterward. Get them away from the rest of us first.

Paul O’Keefe

Union City, NJ

I generally agree with The Post’s endorsements, but I am baffled by its support of Adams for mayor.

His stance on the NYPD changes at his convenience. One day he’s anti-cop and a fierce critic of the NYPD (even though he was employed by the NYPD), and then he switches and comes across as pro-police.

Can New Yorkers elect a mayor who lacks common sense and leadership skills? His suggestion last summer to New Yorkers to settle disputes about illegal fireworks on their own and not call the police was deadly. Shatavia Walls, 33, died as a result.

Adams lacks the moral compass and common sense required to be a winning mayor. The people of New York deserve better.

Susan Berger

Brooklyn

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]post.com. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

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Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

Maya Wiley again proved what a disaster she’d be as mayor last week, by refusing to commit to not disarming cops.

At the debate, WCBS’s Marcia Kramer pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former legal adviser on what she thought of state Attorney General Letitia James’ suggestion to mandate that law-enforcers use force only as a last resort. Wiley dodged: “Safety is job one, and I’m going to keep New Yorkers safe when I’m mayor.”

So Kramer asked if she’d take guns away from the NYPD, and Wiley dropped her bomb: “I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”

Huh? What decision is there to make? It’d be absurd to disarm the city’s cops at any time, let alone one when the bad guys are firing their weapons at an ever-higher rate. Yet Wiley’s refusal to commit is an announcement that she finds the idea attractive.

Not that it’s a real surprise: Wiley is a police-hater who demonized NYPD officers in a campaign ad in which she claimed cops don’t think she and other black New Yorkers “deserve to breathe.”

In reality, the NYPD’s work has saved tens of thousands of black lives in recent decades, by bringing the murder rate to historic lows — though it’s now starting to inch back up because Wiley and her fans imagine that police violence is now the greater threat. Literally: She’s vowed to slash the NYPD’s budget because “trauma” from dealing with cops is a bigger problem than crime.

In reality, most minority New Yorkers want more cops in their neighborhoods, though of course they want the police to do their jobs as politely as possible. Then too, the force itself is now majority-minority.

All of which is why Eric Adams wisely made fighting crime the signature issue of his campaign and why he leads in the polls. But a large and fractured field plus the advent of ranked-choice voting could let a loon like Wiley sneak into the Democratic nomination and likely victory in the fall — unless all sane New Yorkers make sure to leave her entirely off their ballots and choose only pro-public-safety candidates.

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