NEW YORK (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a guest on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Thursday to discuss New York’s ongoing effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interview transcript provided by the governor’s office:
Stephen Colbert: Thanks so much for being with us, Governor, and thank you for everything you’re doing to keep our state safe and the public informed. How are you?
Governor Cuomo: I’m doing well. So far so good. As well as I can be doing under the circumstances anyway, Stephen. Thank you for having me – pleasure to be with you. I’m a big fan.
Stephen Colbert: Well, sir, I know you’re sequestered right now with adult children. That’s in your quarantine bubble. How is that, having the adult kids at home with you?
Governor Cuomo: That’s actually cool. You know, my kids are 22, 25 and 25, twins, three girls. I normally can’t get them to come home to visit me, Stephen. I normally have to pay them to come visit me. They want a check when they come so to have them with me has really been a silver lining in a weird way, you know, because they’re out there living their lives. The last thing they want to do is go hang out with dad in Albany, you know. But they’ve been here and it’s been very helpful to me because with everything going on it’s just very grounding for me to go home and have them there and hear their abuse which I’m accustomed to and I know comes from a good place.
Stephen Colbert: Of course. How about the boyfriend? Is the boyfriend still with you?
Governor Cuomo: The boyfriend is still with us, yes. He is.
Stephen Colbert: And we like the boyfriend?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, we like the boyfriend. Official comment, we like the boyfriend. Personal comment, we like the boyfriend. I learned that lesson the hard way. You have to say you like the boyfriend whatever you feel because they’re still in the rebellion phase. You say you don’t like the boyfriend, they will marry that boyfriend just to spite you. So yes, I like the boyfriend.
Stephen Colbert: And here is why I think you actually like the boyfriend is because you’re willing to talk about whether or not you like the boyfriend.
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Stephen Colbert: Because if you actually didn’t like the boyfriend you would never mention the boyfriend.
Governor Cuomo: I would never mention the boyfriend and the boyfriend has been in close proximity so if I really didn’t like the boyfriend that would have communicated by now through various means and methods.
Stephen Colbert: Well, I want to talk to you about something that you talked about in your press briefing yesterday. New York State overall numbers are dropping but you reported yesterday that in a survey of 1,300 new COVID patients 66 percent of them had been staying at home. Do we know why these people who are staying at home are still getting sick?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, it’s actually interesting, Stephen. The closedown has worked so well and what we feared didn’t come true. I was afraid that the essential workers would have a higher infection rate – the health care workers, transit workers, police.
Stephen Colbert: Makes sense.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, and that did not happen. Actually the health care workers, believe it or not, have a lower infection rate than the general population which just shows the PPE, the masks, et cetera, actually works. The infection rate is now down to an increase among those people who stay home, meaning the closedown is working. We’re down to a level now where it’s pure personal behavior and whether or not you’re wearing a mask and you’re using sanitizer because this is now people who are at home who are not working, not taking public transportation. That’s the only area that we still see growth and that’s actually good news.
Stephen Colbert: Now 30 states are either opening or close to opening but most of those states don’t meet the federal guidelines, even the guidelines put out by the White House themselves. New York is not reopening yet but do you have a plan in place?
Governor Cuomo: We have a very specific plan, probably the most specific plan and the government philosophy here is I understand the emotion and the anxiety and the stress, and we all want to reopen as quickly as possible. Everybody does, myself included. But you don’t operate out of emotion and passion. You stay with facts and data. So we have been doing that tall along. We follow the science, we follow the facts, we follow the data, and we’re going to reopen by the data. We know how many hospitalizations we have. We know what the infection rate is. We know what the testing rate is. Follow the data. And I think the CDC did have guidelines, and you’re right, many states are reopening, even though the guidelines are not being followed. We’re in the opposite place. New York, the numbers are all going down on every level. Many of the other states, the numbers are still going up, and they’re reopening. That not only violates CDC guidelines, that violates common sense. And we’re not going to do that. We’re going to follow the data, we are on the way down. In a about one week, you’ll see some regions in the state with lower numbers starting to reopen their economies, and as those numbers stabilize, you’ll see more economic growth.
Stephen Colbert: Well, you made a good point that while nationally, there may be a flattening of the curve, if you take New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, if you take those numbers, where the numbers are going down, you take that out of the equation, for the rest of the country, we’re still going up. What advice do you have for the other governors who are governing states right now that do not have the same crisis level of COVID infections that New York experienced, but are in no way exempt from it, just because it hasn’t happened yet?
Governor Cuomo: No look Stephen, I think it is short term, I understand the short-term benefit of opening. The pressure to open is tremendous. The political pressure is tremendous. People want out. They want out of the home, people need a paycheck, they want to get back to work, they want to make sure they have a job, I get it. So I understand the short term pressure, but long term, we have seen what has happened in countries that open too quickly, and then they wound up closing again. To open and then close two weeks or three weeks later because that infection rate goes through the roof again makes no sense. Calibrate the opening and don’t open until you have those numbers under control. Now you’re right, New York, we’re on the decline. The rest of the country is still on the incline when you take out New York. And in about one week, again, you’ll start to see some regions open, but I think it is a mistake to respond to the emotion when you know the facts are saying something different. So I suggest communicate the facts to people. You know, I quoted Lincoln today in one of my press briefings. Lincoln really believed in the American people. And he said if you tell them the truth, they will keep the country safe. What I’ve been doing all through this is just giving people the facts, right. This is New York. I couldn’t have said to New Yorkers, we’re going to close your schools, close your business, you have to stay at home. New Yorkers would have told me the equivalent of pound sand, you know, no government has ever done that before. But I’ve been laying out tall the facts every day. Here’s just the facts, not my opinion, no politics, here are the facts. And if you lay out the facts think people get it. You know, people are paying attention to this. This is not a normal issue. This affects them. This is not about politics, this is about their health and safety, and their children. They’ve been following it. Lay out the facts and they will do the right thing. And that’s what we’re doing in New York and it has worked.
Stephen Colbert: How’s the communication, the cooperation gone between, I’m not sure how many states it was in the northeast, you formed sort of a cooperative group of states, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island
Governor Cuomo: Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, year. That’s going, we have about seven states that we work with, which are all basically contiguous, right. And it makes sense because the virus doesn’t stop at a state boundary. And people get in cars, and they drive, and Amtrak goes through the states. So we’re coordinating the best we can our closing policy and our reopening policy to make sure we know what each other is doing, because whatever one state does affects another state, right. We’re seeing now some states that opens up and people from surrounding states are now going to that state. If Connecticut opens up beaches, you’ll see New Yorkers going to Connecticut.
Stephen Colbert: Georgia allowed haircuts, and people flooded into Georgia to get their haircuts.
Governor Cuomo: Well you have such a pent-up demand, right. Think about it. People will go anywhere. People will get in the car and drive a couple of hours just to get out of the house for a couple of hours.
Stephen Colbert: Speaking of haircuts, your brother Chris got a very short haircut. Serious question, I thought the dog groomers were all closed in New York.
Governor Cuomo: Well, where he went was even worse than going to a dog groomer. He had the COVID virus, he then gave his wife the COVID virus, he was quarantined in the basement, she was quarantined upstairs. After he gave her the COVID virus, he said, he told me that she forgave him. He then gave her the shears to cut his hair. And she cut his hair like Delilah cut Samson’s hair. And she gave it all back to him, so, you know, that was a passive-aggressive, still angry haircut. He has a shorter haircut, I told him it’s like a prison haircut, you know.
Stephen Colbert: Exactly. When you’ve got a slight institutionalized look to it. He’s got shoes without laces right now.
Governor Cuomo: Oh yeah.
Stephen Colbert: Governor, we have to take a little bit of a break but if you could please stick around we’ll be right back with more Governor Andrew Cuomo
Stephen Colbert: Hey everybody, we’re back here with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Now, I’m asking this next question for a friend. When will late night shows in New York be allowed to have audiences again? Not that it’s important to me, I don’t care, I don’t live for laughter. I’m asking for Fallon and Seth, I’m just curious, I’m sure it’s hurting them.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, well you can tell them to call me, because I can make that happen.
Stephen Colbert: You can? Okay, please.
Governor Cuomo: Fallon and Seth.
Stephen Colbert: I have a friend who’s getting desperate to be in front of an audience again.
Governor Cuomo: Fallon and Seth, okay, I’ll call Fallon and Seth.
Stephen Colbert: Okay good. Now, how’ve things changed in our preparedness and how will you respond if there is another wave in the fall, as some people caution?
Governor Cuomo: Well look, we learned a lot of lessons here the hard way, Stephen. First, we learned about tracking these global pandemics in the first place. We were all watching China because there was an outbreak in China. Turns out that the virus that came to New York came through Europe, and nobody was even aware of it. We did the China travel ban, the president announced the China travel ban, but we had people coming from Europe, and the virus had left China, gone to Europe and was coming from Europe. And we had two million people come in from Europe, and that’s how the virus came to New York. Our healthcare system was not ready for this, we didn’t have the equipment, we didn’t have the PPE, et cetera. So we’ve learned a lot of lessons, and we won’t make those errors again. It’s the first time we’ve ever really had to deal with a global pandemic in this country, and I’m sure every state has learned a lot. We’re anticipating a second wave. Some of the experts talk about a second wave, third wave, the 1918 pandemic had three waves, 18 months from beginning to end. So we will be in a better position and we’ll be more prepared from a health system point of view, that I can promise you.
Stephen Colbert: Now, you have been very about trying to keep this apolitical and you have not risen to any of the President’s bait about talking about the blue states not managing their own finances or their own COVID crises. But what do you say to the President when he says it wouldn’t be fair to Republicans to be bailing out blue states right now who are the heavy, urban population states who are dealing with the COVID crisis at its highest levels?
Governor Cuomo: First, you are right. I try to stay away from the politics because this is such an ugly divided political environment to begin with. Once that political flag goes up, Stephen, people change the lens and everything becomes political. You are 50-50. And we need everybody on the same page here, we need all New Yorkers to work together so I stay 100 miles away from politics. But states do need funding and we do need federal legislation providing funding for states. You have the states in charge of reopening. The President has made that clear. It is up to the Governor’s. I have a $13 billion deficit. You know, my state has a terrible financial hole because of this virus, and all states are in the same position. If you want to get the economy back running, you have to fund states. The federal legislation does small business, airlines, etc. The states fund police and fire and school and teachers. So, you have to fund the states. The bailout argument is just nonsensical. If you look at who pays the bills in this country, who contributes more money, New York contributes more money to the federal government every year than it gets back. We in essence have been subsidizing the federal government other states to the tune of billions of dollar every year. We put in about $30 billion more every year than we get back. So, if anything New York has been bailing out the nation for many, many years. But look, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is just not. The virus does not discriminate. You have Democrats dying. You have Republicans dying. It is not a red state, blue state issue. It’s a national issue – it is a red, white and blue issue, and I just refuse to get into that partisan fight because for me I’m trying to handle this situation in New York. I have Democrats, Republicans, I have Independents – I have everything in New York and I need everyone to know that I am not speaking out of any political tone. I have no politics in this. I’m not running for anything else. I’m not going anywhere else. I’m just Governor of New York and I represent them Democrat, Republican and we’re all on the same page and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. And that feeling of mutuality that we used to have in this nation, which is gone, I want to have that in New York. I want everyone to know we’re on the same page, we have the same agenda. I’m trying to protect you while you’re trying to protect me. You know that mask is a beautiful metaphor. I don’t wear a mask to protect myself – I wear a mask to protect you and you wear a mask to protect me and that’s community at its best, you know, that’s citizenship at its best and that’s what I’m trying to do in New York.
Stephen Colbert: Sire, we have to take one more quick break. If you can just give us a moment more we’ll be right back with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Stephen Colbert: Hey everybody, we’re back with Governor Andrew Cuomo. You’ve talked about your father and the lessons that you learn from him – how do you think your father would be handling this coronavirus right now?
Governor Cuomo: Better than I am that I can tell you. No, my father was the best.
Stephen Colbert: How does he inspire you and the lessons he taught you not only about governing as the State of New York himself but also about what it means to be an American and what it means to be community-minded – how does that influence the way that you’re approaching this crisis?
Governor Cuomo: My father was always representative of our best selves. If our better angels needed a spokesperson, they would hire my father, right? That’s where he came from, that’s what he spoke to and I still hear my father every day, you know, his voice is still in my head and his love is still in my heart so he would be saying, “rise above.” He would be saying, “rise above, don’t get into the gutter with them, don’t let them pull you down, don’t go for the bait, rise above. This is a transcendent crisis and it’s not about you and your ego and your personality, who cares what they say, rise above and lead people up, lead people up, the state motto Excelsior, ever upwards, Excelsior, ever upwards.” I added another expression to the state seal which was one of his favorites “e pluribus unum,” out of many one you put those two together, Stephen, you have everything Excelsior, ever upwards, aspirational, e pluribus unum, out of many one community, our founding premise. That’s what he would be saying.
Stephen Colbert: Well, I got two very important questions to close out with here, Governor. I need to ask you about a recent survey – 2,000 people were surveyed and they found that the Cuomo Brothers, you and your brother Chris, tied as the most desirable men in New York. Now as an older brother can you abide by a tie? Do you want to do anything right now to push yourself over the top in terms of desirableness? Do you want to loosen the top button, want to give us a smoldering stare, anything? Put him in his place?
Governor Cuomo: Well first, smoldering stare, first of all, my brother has to be disqualified because he’s not eligible. He is married so he’s not eligible so he’s out. First of all he’s out.
Stephen Colbert: There it is.
Governor Cuomo: There it is, see? DQ. He’s out of the competition. He’s out of the running. I win.
Stephen Colbert: Okay, in the movie of this when it’s finally made, who do you want to have play you because last night, we know Brad Pitt is already playing Dr. Fauci, but last night I had De Niro on the show and he said he wants to play you. Do you approve of that casting.
Governor Cuomo: Well first, how does Brad Pitt play, how do we get Brad Pitt to Dr. Fauci? How do you see that?
Stephen Colbert: Dr. Fauci asked that in the movie, he would like if Brad Pitt would play Dr. Fauci and Pitt showed up on SNL as Dr. Fauci so that’s cast.
Governor Cuomo: All right, so that’s great. Okay. Look—
Stephen Colbert: De Niro?
Governor Cuomo: De Niro, I am a big De Niro fan. He is just phenomenal. The breath of his ability. I mean just look at all the roles he’s played. He can do anything, right? Deer Hunter, Cape Fear, he can do comedy. How about Taxi Driver?
Stephen Colbert: Sure.
Governor Cuomo: I’m going to do Tax Driver. The next press conference when a reporter asks me a question, you talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Oh boy, that would be a treat. I’m a big De Niro fan. He’s a genius. He’s a genius.
Stephen Colbert: Well, Governor, thank you so much for talking to us today and thank you for keeping us informed and keeping us safe.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Stephen. All the best to you. Stay safe, you and your family.