Embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, continuing an April tour of the state with another press-free press conference in Buffalo, got a vote of confidence Friday from one of the biggest names in tech: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Cuomo, who faces an impeachment inquiry and multiple investigations into allegations of misconduct, has been parading around the state in the days since he cut a deal with lawmakers on a state budget.
As the governor signed one of the budget bills Friday, Schmidt joined Cuomo to help tout an effort to expand broadband access — and give the Democrat a public boost of confidence.
“Governor, your leadership in general over this pandemic has been extraordinary,” Schmidt said.
As with other events in recent weeks, Cuomo was flanked by supporters who praised his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
“I trust Gov. Cuomo’s leadership,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. “I’ve worked with him long enough to know that he truly cares about our great city … Thank you for your vision and your bold leadership toward building back a better and stronger New York.”
Key context: The purpose of Friday’s event was to sign the Education, Labor and Family Assistance portion of the budget, which Cuomo was due to act on by Monday.
The participants were focused on a portion of this budget bill that requires broadband companies to charge low-income families no more than $15 per month for access. A grant funded by Schmidt’s foundation will cover costs for 50,000 students.
Another closed press event: Cuomo stopped letting reporters attend these events in December, citing concern about the spread of Covid-19.
The Buffalo event was his fourth one this week. One closed press event held at an apple orchard on Tuesday was outside. On Wednesday, his schedule said the media was prohibited from an event at Belmont Park “due to COVID restrictions” — a few hours later, the governor announced that it is now safe for more than 20,000 spectators to attend races there.
Friday’s event did feature a brief Zoom Q&A at the end. As is increasingly the case, none of the reporters that the administration decided to call on were from the Albany press corps. None of those chosen to ask questions inquired about any of the scandals Cuomo is currently facing, but the governor did have a couple of lengthy conversations about the quality of the hand sanitizer the state distributes.
“My hand sanitizer has two advantages, well really three advantages. Number one, my hand sanitizer has a higher percentage of alcohol than most other hand sanitizers, and the key ingredient for the effectiveness of hand sanitizer is the percentage of alcohol,” Cuomo said. “Second, my hand sanitizer has a special scent that also clears the sinus passages, so you’re not only sanitizing your hands, you’re also clearing your sinus passages at the same time. Third, mine is free, which is also better.”
The Times Union revealed on Thursday that an unpublished draft of Cuomo’s book included a section complaining that “the Albany press corps doesn’t travel so they don’t cover any events outside of the Capitol.” Friday’s closed press Buffalo event, held 286 miles from Albany, was announced 49 minutes before it began.