Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and CNN host Chris Cuomo engaged in a heated exchange Wednesday night when the two butted heads over the handling of COVID-19 by the anchor's brother, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
During the "Cuomo Prime Time" interview, Cuomo and Cruz discussed President Donald Trump's comments at the first presidential debate, the Proud Boys, and Cruz's new book. Tensions flared throughout the interview, but especially when Cruz criticized Gov. Cuomo's coronavirus response.
Chris Cuomo said that the governors in Texas, Florida, and Georgia didn't do enough coronavirus testing, which he claims hindered reopening efforts.
"I get that your show wants to attack Texas, and Florida, and Georgia because they have Republican governors," Cruz retorted. "We have also had much, much lower death rates than many other parts of the country, and it's political, the attacks you're making."
"I think what we should be focused on is, yes, testing. I'm a big proponent of testing. We need to do more testing," Cruz said. "But we need people to go back to work."
Cruz alleged Cuomo was politicizing the coronavirus pandemic, to which the CNN anchor said it "couldn't be less political for me."
Then the Texas senator sternly asserted, "Let me say something. There is something disgusting that Democrats are doing, that Joe Biden does, and that you do, which is you try to blame the people who've lost their lives on your political enemies."
Cruz continued to spar with the TV host, "And that's just not right. ... It's not right at all and it's particularly not right, Chris, when your brother has presided over the state with the highest death rate in the country."
According to Worldometers, New York has the second-highest COVID-19 deaths per million in the U.S. at 1,709, trailing only New Jersey, which has 1,829. Texas is ranked 18th in COVID-19 deaths per million with 556.
"New York's record will stand for itself," Cuomo defended his brother.
"I know your brother didn't want those people to lose their lives, but you shouldn't play politics," Cruz said.
Cuomo retorted sarcastically, "Oh, that's good. So you don't think he intentionally killed them. That's good. That's very charitable of you, Ted."
"Of course not," Cruz proclaimed. "But I do think we could have a very reasonable policy discussion about the policy mistakes in New York and New Jersey of sending COVID-positive patients into nursing homes; I think that was a very serious policy mistake."
Cuomo smarmily asked, "Mm-hmm, because that didn't happen all over the country, right?"
"No, it didn't happen in Texas," Cruz declared. "That's one of the reasons why the death rate in New York is four times the death rate in Texas."
Cuomo then launched a verbal attack on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The senator asked Cuomo, "Was is it a mistake when your brother implemented a policy that nursing homes had to accept COVID-positive patients and endangered the lives of tens of thousands of seniors in New York state?"
"My brother was the first one to say that there was a learning curve and that mistakes were made and they changed things as soon as they could," Cuomo replied.
"But then don't be a hypocrite about it," Cruz shot back.
On June 29, Republicans Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon asked Christi Grimm, principal deputy inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to launch an investigation into five states for their policies regarding placing coronavirus-infected patients in nursing homes and long-term care centers.
"As reported by the media, the governors of a handful of states in which some nursing homes struggled to provide safe and adequate care 'actually ordered nursing homes to accept patients with active COVID-19 infections who were being discharged from hospitals.' Governors issuing such directives include those in New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, and Michigan," the lawmakers' letter stated.
All five states that implemented the policies have Democratic governors.
A report from the New York Times released in late June stated that nursing home COVID-19 deaths accounted for 43% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States.
A report from the Associated Press released in August claimed that New York's official count of nursing home residents who died "could actually be a significant undercount."
Cuomo and Cruz also faced off in a contentious argument about President Donald Trump's comments during the first presidential debate. Cuomo brought up the Proud Boys, to which Cruz said, "I've condemned the Proud Boys long ago. I think white supremacists, Klansmen, Nazis are ignorant, bigoted morons."
Cruz said he wishes President Trump "had been much clearer in his denunciation." Then Cruz brought up Biden's association with Robert Byrd, who was at one time an "Exalted Cyclops" of the KKK, which is the highest-ranking position in a chapter.
"The press is partisan in this regard. Ten years ago, 2010, Joe Biden gave a eulogy for Robert Byrd, who was a Grand Cyclops of the KKK," Cruz said.
Cuomo responded, "You're really gonna go with that? I know you're a master debater ... you're gonna go with that weak-ass argument here? Byrd, who had a complete enlightenment about how hate was wrong, who changed his life, who spoke about it, who changed his ways?"
"Chris, have you ever eulogized a Klansman? I haven't," Cruz retaliated.
"Chris, there was a time when CNN actually cared about being journalistic and talking about facts," Cruz explained. "Donald Trump broke you guys."
"I mean, your entire show, your entire network now is just how much you hate Trump," Cruz added.
"Chris, do you actually want to talk substance?" @TedCruz asks @ChrisCuomo. "We are talking substance. I just like… https://t.co/Y8NwMkhmjZ— Cuomo Prime Time (@Cuomo Prime Time)1601519245.0