NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is sounding off on Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is involved in a dispute with another state Democrat who claims the governor threatened him over the reporting of COVID nursing home deaths.
Cuomo has faced mounting challenges to his leadership on the coronavirus pandemic, as state lawmakers threatened to strip him of the power to issue emergency orders and federal investigators scrutinize his administration's handling of nursing home data.
Assemblyman Ron Kim, of Queens, now says Cuomo vowed to "destroy" him during a private phone call last week for criticizing his handling of the outbreak. De Blasio weighed in Thursday, saying he believes Kim 100% and that threatening public officials is nothing new for Cuomo.
"That's classic Andrew Cuomo," he said. "The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment. Many, many times I've heard that, and I know many other people in the state have heard that...I believe Ron Kim, and it's very, very sad."
The mayor called for a full federal investigation, noting families who lost loved ones still aren't sure what happened.
"We need a full investigation, unquestionably, this is about thousands of people's lives," he said. "This is about our elders, and there are families right now in New York state that lost a grandma, a grandpa, aunt or uncle. They are not sure what happened here. They are worried that something was done wrong, and the big question, how do we make sure this never happens again."
Cuomo, who has long had a reputation for playing rough in politics, denied the allegation Wednesday, and fired back by calling the Assembly member a chronic liar. He said it's a "lie" that he obstructed justice, and told reporters that he has a "long hostile relationship" with Kim.
The governor also accused Kim of being "unethical" for backing nail salon owners as lawmakers discussed safety and wage reforms of the industry in 2015. Kim had initially supported the reforms but later opposed some of them after getting support from salon owners.
"I didn't say anything about Assemblyman Ron Kim," Cuomo said. "He attacked me. He attacked me and said that I obstructed justice."
Kim told the New York Times and CNN on Wednesday that Cuomo called him on the phone Feb. 11 to shout at him about his comments on the nursing home issue.
"He goes off about how I hadn't seen his wrath and anger, that he would destroy me and he would go out tomorrow and start telling how bad of a person I am and I would be finished and how he had bit his tongue about me for months," Kim told the New York Times. "This was all yelling. It wasn't a pleasant tone."
Cuomo's senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi, accused Kim of lying.
"At no time did anyone threaten to 'destroy' anyone with their 'wrath' nor engage in a 'coverup,'" wrote Azzopardi, who said he was on the phone call.
Cuomo on Monday said the state didn't cover up deaths but should have moved faster to release information.
"No excuses," he said. "I accept responsibility for that."
Last week, Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa told Democratic lawmakers that the administration took months to release data revealing how many people living at nursing homes died of COVID-19 because officials "froze " over worries the information was "going to be used against us."
Kim said Wednesday the governor is now trying to distract the public from growing criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike about his administration's handling and reporting of outbreaks.
"The governor can smear me all he wants in an effort to distract us from his fatally incompetent management," Kim said in a statement.
It comes as the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating Cuomo's coronavirus task force with a particular focus on his administration's handling of nursing homes early in the pandemic, two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
The investigation, first reported by the Albany Times Union, is in its initial stages. Subpoenas have been issued, the sources said.
The FBI declined to comment, as did the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
Submit a News Tip or Question