Not long into the pandemic in 2020, Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean lost both her mother-in-law and father-in-law to COVID-19. They had been staying in nursing homes in New York. Months later, Dean would discover that it was likely the actions of then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that led to the deaths of her in-laws.
Dean says it was not that Cuomo issued an ignorant order to send the COVID-19-positive elderly back to nursing homes that troubled her, but rather that Cuomo intentionally tried to cover up the number of deaths that resulted from his actions.
Instead of losing herself in grief, Dean made it her mission to expose the truth and hold Cuomo accountable.
“I remember when my grief really turned to anger, and that was seeing … the Cuomo brothers [Andrew and Chris] on CNN, joking around when thousands of people were dying,” Dean says, adding, “it was just gross negligence, just unbelievable.”
In her new book, “I Am the Storm,” Dean tells her story of helping to take down one of the most powerful men in New York. She also shares the stories of more than a dozen other men and women who have turned their hardships into a force for good.
Dean joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share how she, and so many others, have turned hardship into purpose.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure today to welcome to the show Fox News meteorologist and New York Times bestselling author Janice Dean to talk about her new book “I Am the Storm.” Janice, thank you so much for being here today.
Janice Dean: Oh, listen, I appreciate this. Thank you for having me.
Allen: I am such a fan of your new book. I think it’s a rarity these days to read a book where you put it down and you genuinely feel encouraged. But I can attest that that is true about your new book “I Am the Storm.” It’s full of your own stories, the stories of amazing individuals who have overcome incredible challenges and really taken those hard things in life to say, “You know what? I’m going to use that pain for a bigger purpose.” So Janice, when you think about that phrase, “I am the storm,” what exactly does that mean?
Dean: Well, it comes from the poem that “Fate whispers to the warrior, and says, ‘You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” So that’s where it comes from. I’ve always loved that.
I don’t know if poem is the right word or expression. We don’t know where that comes from. I actually don’t know the author of that, but it’s been around for a long time. And so when I was trying to come up with a title for the book, that kind of came to mind.
And I saw it on social media a lot when we were locked down in the pandemic. It’s one of those things where we all kind of felt helpless sometimes, but because we were all locked up, and in some cases seeing injustices being done, that’s when we felt that inner storm within us to want to do something, to protect our kids, to protect our family, to stand up for what was right even if people were telling us to not speak out.
Allen: Well, and that’s exactly what you did during COVID in the midst of the pandemic. Take us back, if you would, to 2020 and share a little bit of your own story, your family’s story, and what happened to your in-laws.
Dean: Right. So in the spring of 2020, we were all in lockdown. We were told not to go outside, stay away from the virus. My in-laws, my husband’s mom and father, were in separate elder care facilities, and they weren’t in there for very long. His father, Mickey, had a lot of health challenges. He had dementia and he had some things that needed to be fixed before we could get him to an assisted living residence to be with his wife, Dee.
Now, they lived in a four-story walkup for most of their marriage, almost 60 years, and their health was failing them. So we talked to fellow family members as well as his mom, Dee, about trying to get them to a safe place where we could visit them and they wouldn’t have to climb the stairs to try to get to and from places. And she was having a hard time taking care of her husband as well. She had back issues.
At any rate, we were trying to take the best care that we could of both of them, trying to get Mickey in better health to join Dee in her assisted living residence, which was close to us on Long Island. It wasn’t long that they were in there before COVID crashed into our lives. I mean, we hadn’t even packed up their apartment in Brooklyn. And we couldn’t see them. We were getting very few updates on what was going on with them.
Mickey was—we thought was doing well and we thought was being protected because we were all told to stay away from one another. And we got a call on a Saturday morning saying that he wasn’t feeling well and three hours later he was dead. And we didn’t even know he had died of COVID until we saw the death certificate.
His mom, my husband had to call her and tell her that her husband of almost 60 years had died in his nursing home. She got sick two weeks later, was transported to the hospital where she was diagnosed with COVID, and she died in the hospital.
It was a terrible time. Obviously, we couldn’t see them. We couldn’t have funerals. I prayed every night that they had an attendant that held their hand as they took their last breath. And so we were obviously in shock, but we were trying to do what the government was telling us to do.
And when I found out that our former governor was essentially seeding nursing homes with COVID, that’s when that inner storm really came out in me. I was finding out things that we were never told as families, that over 9,000 infected patients were being put into New York elder care facilities. That’s outrageous. That’s taking away their right to life.
And because family members weren’t told, that was a big deal, but then finding out that he was trying to skew the numbers by at least 50%, not counting those that died in the hospital like my mother-in-law—when I started seeing these stories not being out there in the mainstream media, instead, he’s being talked about as a presidential candidate and going on his brother’s show on CNN and talking about which brother the mom loved the most instead of talking about our families who were dying by the thousands here in New York. So that’s kind of how this fire, this storm inside of me began. And that’s when I started to speak out about what I believe was grave injustices.
Allen: Early on in that process of choosing to speak out, when you knew that [then-New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo had issued that order that was allowing the elderly who were sick to return back into nursing homes, which is believed to have caused that mass spread of COVID across nursing homes in New York and infect so many and take so many lives, and you decided, “OK, I’m going to start sharing what is really going on,” you went on Tucker Carlson and you were sort of waiting for that response from the media, for someone to hold Gov. Cuomo accountable, do you remember what you were thinking in the midst of that process and as you walked away from being on Tucker Carlson? Were you expecting, “OK, now there will be real accountability”?
Dean: No, it took a long time. And I remember when my grief really turned to anger, and that was seeing Andrew Cuomo, the Cuomo brothers on CNN, joking around when thousands of people were dying, when nursing home nurses were wearing garbage bags instead of [personal protective equipment], wearing the same mask day in and day out without being able to change it. I mean, it was just gross negligence, just unbelievable.
And the fact that we were all locked away and weren’t able to see our loved ones or have proper funerals—it took weeks. It really took a really long time for reporters to start asking the questions. The moment that it kind of shifted is when the women started coming forward, talking about abuse at the hands of him. Not only did he write the mandate to put COVID-positive patients in a nursing homes, but he was also using those hands all over some of his people that worked with him.
So women started coming out and talking about abusive work environments, working with him. And I think had that not happened, I’m not sure that the media would’ve really grabbed onto the story, to be quite honest with you. I think it was those brave women that came forward and started talking about their abuse in the workplace with him, that people started to pay attention and the shifting of the narrative of not so much maybe a presidential candidate anymore.
They even gave the guy an Emmy Award for some of his fireside chats during COVID when he was on TV every single day talking about what New York was doing during the response.
Allen: And before those women came forward and spoke out and things really started to crumble for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, you were one of the few voices that were still persisting. Why did you keep persisting? Why, you say in your own words, did this become almost an obsession for you, that you were going to speak the truth even if no one else would?
Dean: It’s knowing the truth is on your side and knowing the angels were on my side. And I was not just speaking for myself. I was speaking on behalf of thousands of families. I was meeting these families as we were going out to rallies and trying to raise awareness with not only the New York press, but the national press as well.
It was almost a madness that takes over you. My husband was worried. I had people telling me, “Watch your back.” I had people that knew the Cuomo family very well and saying, “They’re vindictive and they’ll come after you.”
But I just knew that this was important. And I think throughout the book, I find people that kind of have that same passion, that same storm within them, knowing that what they’re doing is really important, even if it is up against a tremendous Goliath like a dynasty politician, Andrew Cuomo. It’s really about knowing that you have something that’s more powerful than them. And that is, for me, it was the truth of finding out what was happening here in New York and speaking on behalf of those angels that didn’t have a voice anymore.
Allen: When news broke that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was stepping down, that he was resigning, do you remember what you felt in that moment?
Dean: I couldn’t believe it. I do remember watching on television, and I noticed his tone was changing. And I remember I went on social media—I was watching it on television, then I was also looking at Twitter as to what was happening in real time. And when he started really sort of going in the direction of what I couldn’t believe was he was going to resign that day, I was dumbfounded.
Because here’s a guy that kept saying, “I’m not going anywhere.” What was his quote? “New York tough. I’m New York tough.” Here’s somebody that was revered. Here was somebody that was talked about as being somebody that might run for president one day, and finally he’s saying that he is going to resign this post. It was really quite an incredible moment.
I think he did regret it. I think he was given advice that he didn’t want. He’s still trying to make a comeback. But it was quite an incredible moment to see him finally resigning after months and months of people fawning over him and interviews saying what a great job he was doing and one of the greatest governors in the state of New York. It was quite a downfall. It truly was something.
Allen: Well, and the stories that you tell of other individuals in your book “I Am the Storm,” you start off with your story, and then you share other stories of people that have decided in a very similar way, “I am going to take on someone or something that is powerful, bigger than me, and I’m going to fight on this issue.” And I know one of the stories that I was really touched by and blown away by is that of a woman named Shelly Elkington. Do you mind telling a little bit of Shelly’s story?
Dean: Shelly is the story that opens the book. She is an incredible woman who lost her daughter after her daughter struggled for many years with opioids. She had a chronic illness and was prescribed these powerful drugs, thinking that they were going to help her instead of make her addicted. And she lost her daughter several years ago, but made it her mission to try to make sure that this never happens to another family. She took her grief and made it into powerful advocacy.
Our interview together, she brought me to tears many times. But I identified with her so much because she would just get in her car and drive in a snowstorm to rallies to make people aware of the opioid crisis here in the United States. And she did it before the mini-series “Dopesick.”
I think a lot of us are aware of the opioid crisis now because of that wonderful series that’s on Hulu that I highly recommend to people to really understand how the opioid crisis began and its power over people and doctors and lobbyists.
And she was one mom that had a mission to try to make sure this didn’t happen to another family. And so that spoke to me, just a woman who had tragedy, and she’s just trying to do better for others. It’s really incredible. She’s an incredible lady.
Allen: It is incredible. It’s absolutely amazing to read. And you tell more than a dozen other stories like that of people amidst the craziness of life and amidst the hardship, putting a stake in the ground and fighting. Is there one story in particular—I’m sure it’s very hard to pick one, but is there one in particular that you still kind of carry with you and maybe think about every day that so spoke to you?
Dean: I think about my friend Ray Pfeifer every day. He is the firefighter who was sick with 9/11-related cancer and still went to Washington, D.C., when he was dying to make sure that his fellow first responders and firefighters got health care, the health care that they needed after breathing in those toxic fumes for weeks and months, trying to dig up, find the remains of his fellow firefighters.
We lost Ray many years ago, but his spirit of going in his wheelchair and banging on doors of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to do that for other people—I think of what I do and what I’m trying to do and thinking about what he did when he was really his sickest, still trying to make a change for others, for the betterment of people, that stays with me because I knew Ray well.
But there are other incredible stories. There’s a gymnast who’s a coach now who went through abuse as a young gymnast. And she talks about the coach that was terrible to her and how she’s a coach now today to try to change the world and how she coaches her young girls that were her age when she was abused as a gymnast. There are so many incredible stories, Virginia, it’s hard to pick which one, but I—
Allen: People have to just read the book.
Dean: It’s true. But the one common thread I will say is that there is a resilience. There is a hope. You have to be an optimistic person to continue the advocacy that you do, that you think that you’re going to make a difference even when maybe other people don’t.
Allen: Do you think that that is maybe the key element, that all of the individuals that you write about in the book, many of whom you had the privilege of sitting down and talking with, is that what they all have in common, that they’re able to see a silver lining?
Dean: I think so. I think we’re all optimistic people in the book, despite the challenges. I think you have to. A lot of these stories come from incredible grief. I think that’s something that is a common thread through a lot of this. You’ve gone through a challenge, you’ve gone through a storm, but that makes you even stronger in the end because the sun will always come out. I think that’s the main reason we do what we do, is because the storm will always pass. We know that. And hopefully we can build a bigger, better foundation to stand on.
But I think the other main takeaway is you find other people in your advocacy. You find other people who will stand with you. Even if you stand alone at the very beginning, if you have truth on your side, if your cause is a righteous one, you will always find people that will stand with you in battle.
Allen: And what, ultimately, is the hope? For folks who are reading the book and maybe they’ve experienced insane challenges, they might be in the middle of a really hard situation and looking for hope, what do you want them to walk away from “I Am the Storm” with?
Dean: I think one person really can change the world. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to see that change. Maybe you never see it in your lifetime. But if you believe in something, and if you believe that what you’re doing is important and can help others, that’s always going to carry you forward.
And I think the people that you find on the battlefield with you during the storm, there is strength in numbers. And even though all of the chapters and the people are maybe doing different things, we’re all very similar in our main goal. And that is to try to change something for the betterment of others, to try to make the world a better place, even if we won’t be able to see that change in our lifetime.
Allen: And I was so interested that you choose to tell stories in the book of individuals who are still in the middle of the fight, that things have not gotten all better yet, there hasn’t been resolve, and yet they’re still choosing, months, years later, to keep saying “yes.” And that kind of persistence, I think, is really always inspirational, but I think especially in this time, in this day and age, to hear of, “OK, what do we do when things keep on being challenging and the difficulties keep coming?”, to have that inspiration to keep pushing forward is so necessary.
Dean: Absolutely. I mean, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. We’re still there. We’re still seeing the illness, seeing it kill people. But there’s always hope. There’s always that sunny side of the storm. The rainbow does come out. And you have to remain hopeful.
I talk about this woman, her name is Maureen Sweeney, who basically was the woman who helped deliver the forecast for our allies to go in on D-Day. So Maureen Sweeney was a young woman who got a job at a lighthouse at the post office there. And one of her jobs was to gather weather information each day to, basically, she didn’t know at the time, but that weather information was used to plan the D-Day invasion. Allied forces were supposed to go in on June 5th. They went on in on the 6th because Maureen Sweeney’s information told them that there was going to be a small window of opportunity for those forces to go into Normandy.
It’s a story that I wasn’t aware of. I knew the meteorology part of it that really changed the trajectory of that day and the war ahead. But she was the one that delivered the information. And she really didn’t know the magnitude of that reporting, her weather forecasting, until decades later.
And I talked to her son, Vincent, in the book, and how important that forecast was and how she dealt with it when she realized the enormity of that forecast. And so that tells you that one woman really changed the trajectory of the world. And it’s an important story to tell, Virginia, because when I started my advocacy, the Cuomo administration would say, “Well, she’s just the weather lady. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” But a weather forecast can change the world.
And so I think it’s important that sometimes you don’t know the importance of what you’re doing at the time. And sometimes it takes decades to really find out the history of the decision that you made at one moment. And that woman changed the world, and we need to recognize that. And there are many Maureen Sweeney out there. She’s going to turn 100 years old this year. And so it’s really an incredible story.
And the thing that brings it back full circle, Virginia, is when I talked to her son, Vincent, who still works at the lighthouse in Ireland, by the way, he said the reason he did the interview is because his sister, Maureen’s daughter, works at a nursing home in Upstate New York and knew my family’s story and said, “You have to talk to Janice Dean.” And that just tells you something. I believe that we’re all connected. I really do.
Allen: Amen. I know that Maureen’s story was certainly one of my favorites in the book because it’s so inspirational and incredible to see someone saying “yes,” just in their day-to-day job. She didn’t realize what that impact of just that simple, “I will do my job well today,” what that would mean for so many lives.
Well, for anyone who needs a little bit of hope, a little bit of encouragement and a little bit of inspiration, pick up your copy of “I Am the Storm” today. You can get it wherever books are sold. Janice, thank you for your time. We truly appreciate you joining us.
Dean: Aw, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
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