February 20th 2021
Gov. Cuomo continues to insist that nursing home-related charges against him are a "conspiracy theory." Cuomo is referring to suggestions that thousands of seniors may have died as a result of his actions and that he and others working under him undercounted and covered up those deaths.
Liberals now use the phrase "conspiracy theory" to respond to any sort of criticism. But what exactly does Gov. Cuomo mean by "conspiracy theory"? What is the "theory," and who are the "conspirators"? Is it a "theory" to say the governor ordered nursing home patients with COVID-19 into nursing homes, where they might infect other patients? Is it mere theory to point out that Cuomo's administration underreported the number of deaths from COVID-19 among nursing home patients? Is it theory to say Cuomo failed to respond to New York representatives' request for information concerning nursing home deaths?
And who are the conspirators? According to Cuomo's aide, Melissa DeRosa, information was withheld because Cuomo and DeRosa feared that "it was going to be used against us," presumably by Republicans and specifically by the Trump DOJ. Yet now there are several ongoing investigations into Cuomo's actions by Democrats, including the Biden DOJ. Does the governor consider these investigations by members of his own party a conspiracy?
The governor also blames the ongoing DOJ investigations for his apparent failure to provide nursing home data to members of the New York Assembly and Senate, and he claims he made this reason known to the Assembly and Senate. According to reports, several state senators claim that that was not the case. Is the governor lying, or are New York assemblymen and senators wrong?
Cuomo uses the words "conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory" as if this were a fair rebuttal to every charge brought against him. As the facts become clear, it seems there is not much that is theoretical about this case. According to numerous independent reports, it seems that Cuomo did send infected patients back to New York nursing homes, did undercount the number of deaths, did attempt to cover up his actions, and did fail to properly inform the state Legislature of the true nature and motive of his actions.
The truth is that labelling an attack a "conspiracy theory" is usually just an attempt to deflect criticism. It's like yelling, "You don't know what you're talking about!," "You're an idiot," or "You're a racist." None of those responses answers the question posed. Likewise, "conspiracy theory" doesn't answer the question of why a governor might order infected patients to be sent into nursing homes, why he might slow-walk or underreport data, and why he might fail to respond to requests for information from his own Legislature and then appear to fabricate an excuse.
Did thousands of elderly persons die a terrifying death, alone and separated from their families, and did Cuomo attempt to cover up the extent of it? If these things happened, then charges against Gov. Cuomo are not a conspiracy theory, which by definition is a "false belief in a secret force influencing events." Nothing "false" about it.
Cuomo's aide now suggests that they "froze" because President Trump was going after them - so it's Trump's fault or the fault of the "toxic situation" created by Trump? What they've just admitted to is withholding data on the most important of Cuomo's mistakes because they were afraid it would be used against them. To me, that sounds like admission of a cover-up. But for a liberal, any charge against them is a conspiracy theory.
A more serious question is whether Gov. Cuomo ordered the return of infected patients to nursing homes rather than sending them to the USNS Comfort so as to deny President Trump a "victory" in dealing with the pandemic. That ship had been refitted and sent to New York in record time - a major accomplishment by the president. Did that fact enter into Cuomo's calculation to send infected seniors to nursing homes rather than to a specialized onboard treatment center? If so, that would be more serious than anything now alleged against the governor.
Gov. Cuomo, by the way, isn't the only liberal Democrat who's been tossing around the "conspiracy theory" argument. At a critical moment in late October, as reports of wrongdoing swirled around Hunter Biden, these reports were labeled right-wing "conspiracy theories" by the mainstream media, and social media were scrubbed of these so-called theories. Little was ever done to rebut the allegations themselves, which appear to center on Hunter Biden's tax affairs, according to a Dec. 9 report. According to Fox News, Biden is the subject or target of a grand jury investigation. So is this grand jury investigation also a conspiracy theory?
There is no end to what liberals will label a conspiracy theory. Sen. Schumer hasn't been shy about labeling his opponents "conspiracy theorists." Back in May, Schumer attacked Republicans for promoting "conspiracy theories" concerning a member of Biden's "family." Would that be the same family member who is now the subject and target of a grand jury investigation? Got questions about President Biden's mental health? It's all "Russian disinformation." Questions about corruption on the part of Joe Biden - another conspiracy theory.
Labeling your opponent as a conspiracy theorist is really just a form of stonewalling - something liberals have always been good at. Whether it's "the science is settled" (when it isn't) or blaming one's withholding information on a "toxic political situation," it comes down to a refusal to engage in rational debate.
Rational debate is not something liberals have been willing to engage in lately - they'd rather engage in name-calling, concealing information, stuffing ballots in the dead of night, and all manner of deceit. When every criticism is labeled a conspiracy theory, it's obvious there is something to hide. The coming weeks in Albany, and Washington, may reveal exactly what that is.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New Yorkvia Flickr, CC BY 2.0.