Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a vaccination site at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on March 8, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images)

NY Vaccine Czar Reportedly Questioned County Officials on Loyalty to Cuomo

"Using vaccine distribution as a tool to control local officials is despicable and a clear abuse of public trust."

Jake Johnson

Larry Schwartz, a longtime adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and current head of the state's coronavirus vaccination efforts, has reportedly called county officials over the past two weeks to gauge their loyalty to the Democratic governor as he faces rapidly mounting calls to resign over a series of sexual harassment allegations.

"Each day he remains in office, our tax dollars are used to threaten people from speaking up. And now even our vaccines are being used to protect Cuomo too."
—Ron Kim, New York State Assemblyman

The Washington Post reported Sunday that "one Democratic county executive was so unsettled by the outreach from Larry Schwartz... that the executive on Friday filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state attorney general's office."

"The executive feared the county's vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive's response to his questions about support of the governor," the Post added. "Schwartz, who is working in a volunteer capacity to run New York's vaccine distribution, acknowledged making the calls in response to an inquiry by the Post, but said he did so as a 30-year friend of Cuomo and did not discuss vaccines in the conversations."

But the New York Times, confirming some of the details of the Post's story, reported Sunday that "in one case, a county executive... said that after Mr. Schwartz had discussed the governor's political situation, he then pivoted directly to a conversation about vaccine distribution."

The two stories prompted immediate outrage from New York state lawmakers, who decried Schwartz's seeming use of his position as an influential pandemic-response official to pressure county executives to stand behind the governor. Cuomo has refused to heed growing calls to step down and denied the accounts of six women who have accused him of sexual harassment, groping, and other inappropriate conduct.

According to the Post, Schwartz's phone calls to county executives "came in advance of a March 8 announcement by the governor's office that the state plans to open 10 new mass vaccination sites around New York—distribution hubs that have been keenly sought by local officials."

"Using vaccine distribution as a tool to control local officials is despicable and a clear abuse of public trust," tweeted Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Yuh-Line Niou, a Democratic New York state assemblywoman, said in response to the new reporting that "our lives are not bargaining chips."

"Vaccines should not be used as a way to bargain for your seat," she added. "We see you."

The claims of Cuomo's accusers are currently being investigated by a team of independent lawyers overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In the midst of the allegations, numerous members of New York's congressional delegation—including Reps. Jerry Nadler, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jamaal Bowman—have demanded that the governor immediately resign.

On Friday evening, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) added their voices to the chorus, saying in a joint statement: "It is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign.

"Confronting and overcoming the Covid crisis requires sure and steady leadership," the New York Democrats said. "We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·

Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·

Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo