When he was U.S. housing secretary in the cabinet of...

When he was U.S. housing secretary in the cabinet of President Bill Clinton, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says, he was the designated survivor twice. In this picture from October 2012 he was planning for superstorm Sandy. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he twice was put in the frightening, sobering position of being the “designated survivor” as depicted in the upcoming ABC-TV thriller of the same name. The show stars Kiefer Sutherland as a presidential cabinet member who becomes president when the chain of command is destroyed in a terrorist attack during a State of the Union address.

“I performed that function twice,” Cuomo, the former housing secretary for President Bill Clinton, said Friday when asked by reporters. “As a member of the president’s cabinet, you get security briefings, the highest level briefings precisely for this type of situation . . . when you are in the bunker, and they are showing you where the assets are, that is intimidating.

“But on that night, when you are somewhere alone and this scenario is running through your mind,” Cuomo said. “It really takes you to the worst-case scenario.”

Cuomo was the designated survivor as President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, all congressional leaders and the Supreme Court were in the Capitol for Clinton’s State of the Union addresses. The designated survivor is supposed to carry on government, and the war that the attack sparked.

Cuomo said he was designated survivor for two state of the union events. He did not specify the years.

“It really is a nightmare scenario,” Cuomo said. He said spent the speech at a secret location at least 120 miles from the Capitol. With him was Secret Service agents, “the football,” that provides documents needed to order nuclear strikes; and advanced communications devices.

“Because if it happened, you would immediately be at war,” Cuomo said. “It’s a sobering, frightening experience . . . it is an experience that has stayed with me for a lifetime.”

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