Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state “should’ve done a better job” at providing timely information about how many New Yorkers died of COVID-19 in long term care facilities, but ultimately blamed a “toxic political environment” and a federal inquiry for his administration's lack of transparency.

“In retrospect, we should have prioritized providing more information,” Cuomo told reporters during a virtual briefing on Monday. “We should not have created the void. We should’ve done a better job in providing information. We should’ve done a better job knocking down the disinformation.”

For weeks, the Cuomo administration has faced intense scrutiny over its handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report in January showed that nursing home deaths were 50% higher than previously reported by officials, because state officials hadn't counted nursing home patients who died in hospitals.

Listen to Sydney Pereira discuss Governor Cuomo's explanation on NPR's Morning Edition:

Last week, the NY Post reported that the governor's top aide, Melissa DeRosa, apologized to a group of Democratic legislators for delaying nursing home data that had been requested for months by lawmakers, reporters, and watchdog groups. DeRosa claimed that the Cuomo administration "froze" when they were asked to provide data to the Department of Justice, out of fear of political reprisals from the Trump administration, and were therefore unable to release the data. (On Friday, Cuomo was in Washington D.C. meeting with the Biden administration and dodged reporters during the visit.)

At Sunday's press conference, Cuomo claimed that the federal request for information took precedence over state requests, and that his deputies told the legislature this.

"Total death counts were always accurate, nothing was hidden from anyone," Cuomo insisted.

Democratic lawmakers, some of whom signed a statement last week urging the legislature to strip the governor of his extraordinary emergency powers granted in the pandemic, tweeted their anger at the governor's version of events.

The Cuomo administration satisfied the DOJ's request in September. Governor Cuomo, who published a self-congratulatory book about his pandemic response in October, did not say why the data was not fully released until 2021.

More than 15,000 residents in nursing homes and adult care facilities died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Cuomo stopped short of an apology for the handling of controversy during a press briefing on Monday, but admitted to creating a "void" that exacerbated disinformation and "conspiracy theories" about how COVID-19 ravaged the long term care facilities.

“This past year, there is a toxic political environment, and everything gets politicized,” Cuomo said. “Do I think that’s part of the conspiracy theories that filled the void? Yes.”

The State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has previously called the suggestion of an “undercount” factually wrong.

Asked if he thought there should be an investigation of his administration's response, Cuomo replied, "There is nothing to investigate."