Andrew Cuomo’s fall from media sainthood has entered its sexual-harassment phase.
The last couple of weeks, there’s been a new accuser or allegation every several days.
Let’s review the six accusers:
One: Cuomo’s former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused the governor of “pervasive harassment” of women, in both touching — including kissing her on the lips without warning — and sexual comments.
Two: Charlotte Bennett, an executive assistant and health-policy adviser in the Cuomo administration, said Cuomo “asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
Three: Anna Ruch had never met Cuomo when she encountered him at a wedding reception, and the governor “put his hand on Ms. Ruch’s bare lower back. . . . When she removed his hand with her own, Ms. Ruch recalled, the governor remarked that she seemed ‘aggressive’ and placed his hands on her cheeks, and asked if he could kiss her.”
Four: Ana Liss, a policy and operations aide to Cuomo from 2013 to 2015, told the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo regularly asked her and other female staffers about their dating lives, touched them and commented about their physical appearance. She described an event where he “hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks and then wrapped his arm around her lower back and grabbed her waist.”
Five: Karen Hinton, who was Cuomo’s press aide when he was secretary of housing and urban development in 2000, said he “summoned her to his dimly lit hotel room and embraced her after a work event. . . . She says she pulled away from Cuomo, but he pulled her back toward his body, holding her before she backed away and left the room.”
Six: An unidentified member of the governor’s Executive Chamber staff told her supervisors that she had been summoned to the mansion to assist the governor with a work-related matter, and that Cuomo groped her, according to the Albany Times Union.
Needless to say, if the rules Democrats applied to Brett Kavanaugh were still operative — a mere accusation, if even vaguely plausible, and sometimes not even that, is enough to sink someone — Cuomo would be gone yesterday. His accusers, without any apparent coordination, several of them his own former aides rather than political enemies, are describing a consistent pattern of behavior that doesn’t require any wild leaps of faith to believe. What’s more, in the case of Anna Ruch, we have an actual photo of the behavior — and Ruch’s facial expression makes clear that she is not welcoming Cuomo’s hands on each side of her face.
Andrew Cuomo is an impulsive, temperamental, sometimes-raging, often-bullying egomaniac prone to spectacular failures of self-awareness, and it’s notable that no one who knows the governor is exclaiming, “Talking to female underlings about their sex lives and pressuring them for a relationship? That just doesn’t sound like the Andrew Cuomo I know!”
Some of Cuomo’s denials have been carefully couched, or he’s claimed that his attempts at friendly banter or, incredibly enough, mentorship have been misunderstood.
By his own standards, too, he should also be gone yesterday — he was eager to get in front of the “me too” parade when it was politically convenient, and he even changed New York’s law to make the standard for harassment lower in a way that might come back to bite him now.
That said, everyone accused of a crime or inappropriate behavior is entitled to some due process, and the allegations against the governor should indeed be investigated by an independent third party. (A genuinely independent third-party investigator, not one appointed by the governor’s office, as he initially suggested.) State attorney general Letitia James has now appointed to conduct that investigation two well-regarded lawyers — a former federal prosecutor who, as acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, oversaw some of the Justice Department’s previous investigation of the Cuomo administration, in which some top officials were convicted on corruption charges (although the governor himself was not charged); and an employment-law expert with extensive experience representing plaintiffs in sexual-harassment cases. In addition, the sixth complainant’s groping allegation has now been referred to the Albany Police Department for a potential criminal investigation, though it is unclear whether the unidentified former staffer will seek to press charges.
No one has to await the end of an investigation, though, to conclude that Cuomo catastrophically mishandled the COVID crisis, tried to cover up his failure, lied about when and why he covered it up, and on top of all that, probably can’t be trusted alone in a room with younger female government workers.
That he may well remain governor of New York and is likely better than some of the alternatives — including his bumbling left-wing nemesis, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is calling on him to resign — is a stinging indictment of the state he has so ill-served.