VANITY FAIR – On March 2, 2020, Andrew Cuomo held a press briefing to address the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State.
Flanked by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and various hospital executives and state health officials, the governor explained the situation.
A 39-year-old health care worker who had been working in Iran tested positive the night before and showed mild symptoms; everyone she had come into contact with on her flight and upon her return home would now be informed.
Cuomo ended these opening remarks with an infusion of family:
“My last point is this. Late last night my daughter called me, and I could hear in her voice that she was anxious. She had seen on the news that a person tested positive.
“And my daughter said, ‘What’s this?’ And I could hear in her voice she was nervous, and my daughter said, ‘Don’t tell me to relax. Tell me why I should be relaxed.’”
At that stage in New York, confusion and fear were bubbling, but life on the outside looked normal enough. Businesses and restaurants were open and subways were full. In the months to come, the state would lead the way in the chaos that engulfed the country.
Cuomo held 111 consecutive daily press briefings about the health crisis.
Cable-news networks televised his addresses across the country, and the governor’s invocations of personal life—initially, at least, a standard enough variety of politician fare—became the conspicuous hallmarks of his public presentation.
“New York tough,” he often indicated, was both the government’s approach and the man’s credo.
“I want to make sure I tell the people of New York what I told my daughter,” Cuomo said in his first press briefing. “In this situation, the facts defeat fear, because the reality is reassuring. It is deep-breath time.”
Sticking to this method, Cuomo made headlines for months and his approval ratings soared. As the health crisis escalated, so did his own profile. Presidential murmurs swirled.
“He was so sexy. Come on, who doesn’t want a superhero with a New York accent to fight the bad guys and defend you?” the Hollywood producer Corin Nelson told Variety in October. “I wish he could be our president—or my personal president” …
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