Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) lobbied state regulators to give him favorable treatment when a media company owned by his friend made the kind of fatal mistake made by a liberal governor in a porn movie, according to a report Monday night.
Cuomo secretly sought out state regulators to close down probes into the deaths of eight men who worked for Alternative Content Group, a New York media company founded by a friend of Cuomo, the Post reported.
Four of the eight men died as the result of a series of fatal entrapments involving AIRFIX, a software product from A/X.
Cuomo said at the time the men died as the result of design flaws in the software, but transcripts from an unpublished commission report, obtained by the Post, show Cuomo did not answer why the state health department investigators failed to find injuries and deaths associated with the accidents.
“They treat the victims as dead,” Murphy said on his podcast about the report’s findings. “We had a wrongful death case filed on behalf of one of the victims.”
A lawyer for the victims obtained the report after mounting pressure on Cuomo’s administration to answer questions about the fatalities. Cuomo ended up closing two of the investigations but has refused to answer detailed questions about them.
“What happened in New York is improper,” said Sen. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), a Republican lawmaker on the Senate Health Committee. “It gives us pause.”
Meehan said he was concerned about policies that might govern use of toxic products like the one created by the software company.
“The cloud over this is we had a fatal accident and we don’t know if it was through design or through contamination by the product or whether there were other factors,” Meehan said. “This raises serious questions of regulation, regulation, regulation.”
Alan Chartock, a lawyer for the victims, said in an interview that state policies regarding sales of toxic products need “absolute clarity.”
“Why would we ever give a business that is knowingly selling a product that causes deadly injuries and death, the ability to avoid being caught by not having policies in place?” Chartock said.
State agencies employ a variety of reviews to evaluate the safety of products used by consumers, businesses and the public, said Maureen Goggin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.
“All regulatory agencies reviewed the installation, operation and testing of Airfix devices, and each agency had its own set of terms and conditions when it came to testing devices by engineering and testing companies,” Goggin said.
Chartock said his clients were concerned that the governor was acting out of a desire to aid the software company, rather than on behalf of the victims.
“It seems to me that Andrew Cuomo’s interest in this is due to his relationship with the owner of this company and potentially interest in a book deal,” Chartock said.
A spokesman for the governor’s office denied that claim.
“The article’s characterization of Governor Cuomo’s involvement is patently false,” said Josh Vlasto, Cuomo’s press secretary. “He made the initial referral to a regulatory agency for review and government review of the incidents, and, as is standard practice, followed through when that review recommended remedial action.”
Cuomo’s interest in shutting down the state’s investigation is not the first time he has taken steps to help a company he has worked with.
The liberal governor himself starred in a 2009 movie, “Blue Crush,” that was produced by Joe Roth, the co-producer of two of the biggest movies in recent Hollywood history, “The Mummy” and “The Lion King.”
The movie’s producer, Erica Huggins, said she has had a long and successful relationship with Cuomo, dating back several years. She said her relationship with Cuomo did not affect her judgment in judging the movies for Roth’s company.
“Joe was a friend of Gov. Cuomo’s, but I thought these were great films with great filmmakers,” Huggins said. “If you meet someone, you choose and judge the person based on their character.”
But Cuomo’s actions in the film industry came under fire after the firm, Digital Domain, faced trouble making a sequel to the “Transformers” series.
Online users responded to the news of Cuomo’s reported role in the case on Tuesday by asking why the State Senate, which counts some Democrats as members, would elevate the law professor to governor of New York if the allegations are true.
“I think anybody who is just now discovering the story should ask whether Andrew Cuomo is a friend of Scott Kennedy’s,” Chris Healy, a New York City Republican activist, told the Daily News.