Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo assailed President Trump during a news conference today, lashing out at the president for a Tweet sent earlier today in which Trump promoted an unfounded conspiracy theory that had been aired by the right-wing One America News Network.
It dealt with the 75-year-old Buffalo man, Martin Gugino, who had been pushed by Buffalo police during a demonstration and fell backwards, hitting his head on concrete. Gugino wound up in the intensive care unit of a Buffalo hospital. Two Buffalo police officers were suspended and charged with assault.
With no facts to support his claims or suggestions, Trump had Tweeted: “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75-year-old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
Antifa is usually used to describe anti-fascist groups that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s to fight the rise of fascism in Europe and were seen in the U.S. in the 1980s confronting neo-Nazi skinheads.
Trump made no attempt to explain how “aiming scanner” could disable police communications. Examination of the video indicates that Gugino was holding an object that appeared to be a cellphone in his right hand when pushed.
“You read his Tweets you get to a point where you say, nothing will surprise me, I’ve seen it all,’” Cuomo said. “And then, you get surprised again. You get shocked again. You get disgusted again. The president of the United States. Supposed to be a responsible position and a responsible person.”
Cuomo, who held his daily briefing on the campus of New York Medical College in Valhalla, reminded everyone that the video of the incident went viral and millions saw Gugino being pushed, falling backwards, his head hitting the ground and blood gushing out.
With his voice rising in volume and the emotion starting to climb, Cuomo said, “He accuses this man of being associated with antifa. No proof whatsoever. No fact. Just an assertion. He fell harder than he was pushed. In the video you see him pushed and you see a 75-year-old man fall backwards and his hit head on the pavement. What does that even mean? Fell harder than he was pushed? What do you think – it was staged? The blood coming out of his head was staged? Is that what you’re saying? How reckless. How irresponsible. How mean. How crude. I mean, if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment, and from the president of the United States. At this moment of anguish and anger, what does he do? Puts gasoline on the fire. If there was ever, if he ever feels a moment of decency, he should apologize for that Tweet, because it is wholly unacceptable. Not a piece of proof, totally, personally disparaging, and in a moment when the man is still in the hospital, show some decency, show some humanity, show some fairness. You’re the president of the United States.”
Cuomo called for a smart policy discussion on the matter of policing. He said the answer to friction between police and communities is not in defunding but in reform.
“This issue of policing has been brewing for decades. The militarization of the police: this is not a new issue, it goes back decades,” Cuomo said. He called for fundamental changes in the structure of police departments in the U.S. so that they are community oriented. “It’s like any interpersonal relationship. There is no police department that’s going to work without the trust of the community and the community is not going to pay for a police department it doesn’t trust.”
Cuomo said it is time for what he said should be a new, smart policy and a new model of policing. He said political hype needs to be separated from truth and facts and added that the issue will not just go away.
In discussing the COVID-19 situation, Cuomo reported that as the Mid-Hudson Region, which includes Westchester, entered phase two of the reopening process today, positive statistics were coming in.
He said that hospitalizations in the Hudson Valley yesterday totaled 274, a dramatic decrease from the peak daily number of 1,888 people in hospitals with COVID-19 on April 11. There were no in-hospital deaths from the virus yesterday in the Hudson Valley, compared with the daily peak of 75 recorded on April 13. The three-day rolling average of positive tests for the virus came in at 73 yesterday, compared with a peak on April 9 of 1,996 positive test results.
Cuomo reminded Hudson Valley residents who are starting to again commute using Metro-North Railroad that masks are mandatory when riding on public transportation, people need to stay 6 feet apart when possible, hand sanitizer should be used and posted guidance should be followed.
Actor Sean Penn joined Cuomo via video, as Cuomo thanked him and his group CORE for their help in arranging additional COVID-19 testing in New York zip codes where high percentages of the population have been exposed to the virus.
Statewide there have been a total of 24,348 COVID-19 deaths, according to statistics obtained from the state Department of Health.
Deaths in Westchester now total 1,527, with 1,396 Westchester residents falling victim to the virus. The number of Rockland residents who died from the disease remained steady for a third day at 502. The number of Putnam residents killed by the virus also was unchanged at 62. A total of 388 Orange County residents have died from the virus. The number of deaths in Dutchess County rose by one to 154.
New York has had 379,482 people test positive for the virus. There now have been a cumulative total of 34,035 cases identified in Westchester, 13,353 in Rockland, 1,280 in Putnam, 10,533 in Orange and 4,016 in Dutchess.