The Corner

Law & the Courts

What Does Andrew Cuomo Represent?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) winks while speaking from the One World Trade Center Tower in New York, June 15, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

After insisting that any investigation of his actions would prove he did nothing wrong, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is now contending that the staffers of Attorney General Tish James who are investigating him cannot be trusted.

After giving Cuomo orgiastic overage for the first six months or so of the pandemic, national news coverage of the New York governor gradually and belatedly got tougher — with the notable exception of CNN’s prime time. But so far, it appears Cuomo has waited out the storm.

There are a lot of conservative complaints about how the national media covers politics, but one aspect that I think doesn’t enough discussion is how scandals involving Republican officials are often covered as if they are emblematic and symbolic of deep-rooted, widespread pathologies within the party and/or conservative movement. The theme of the coverage is not just “Republican official is caught doing something bad”; it is often “a GOP official is caught doing something bad, demonstrating why Republicans are bad.”

You probably remember that idiot Todd Akin declaring during a discussion of abortion restrictions, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” What you may not remember is that immediately, the mainstream media adopted the narrative that Akin’s ignorant comment, suggesting rape could not result in pregnancy, represented mainstream GOP thinking.

The very first question to Barack Obama during a White House press conference, August 20, 2012:

You’re no doubt aware of the comments that the Missouri Senate candidate, Republican Todd Akin, made on rape and abortion.  I wondered if you think those views represent the views of the Republican Party in general.  They’ve been denounced by your own rival and other Republicans.  Are they an outlier or are they representative?

Obama split the difference: “Although these particular comments have led Governor Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions — or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape — I think those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party.”

A Republican sex scandal is not one guy being hypocritical; it reflects sexism, misogyny, the desire to control women’s bodies, repressed homosexuality, etc. A Republican official’s failure to pay owed taxes is an indicator of GOP greed and selfishness. Misuse of funds demonstrates that Republicans just don’t care about the public good and are always obsessed with getting what they want, etc. The misdeeds of a figure on the right are often treated as a symptom of the inherent maladies of the conservative approach to everything in life.

But when Democratic officials get caught in scandal… the tone of the coverage is that it’s just a random bad thing that happened. It doesn’t reflect any broader trend, or troubling pattern, or a lingering blind spot within the Democratic party.

Before he became governor, Andrew Cuomo was the state attorney general. Before Cuomo had that job, the state attorney general was Eliot Spitzer, who had sex with prostitutes while prosecuting other people on prostitution charges and who faced allegations of violent behavior during his trysts. Cuomo’s successor as state attorney general was Eric Schneiderman,  who ultimately did not face criminal charges — despite four women claiming he hit or choked them. Once charges were dropped Schneiderman issued a statement declaring that he “accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them.” He’s now teaching meditation. (No, I am not making this up.)

Three consecutive New York state attorneys general faced charges of either getting sexually violent with women on multiple occasions or sexually harassing them. Some people might look at that and wonder if there’s a dangerously indulgent culture surrounding powerful Democratic men in New York state. Some might even wonder if being allegedly feminist, pro-choice, and self-described “pro-women” gives powerful Democratic men in office a sense that they are entitled to indulge their very worst impulses when behind closed doors with a woman.

But to many voices in the media, there’s nothing usual about three straight top law enforcement officials in one state being accused of groping or assaulting women. It’s just some bad things that randomly happened involving three Democratic officials in a row.

Put another way, if Ed Buck had been a big-time Republican donor, wouldn’t his trial have been nationwide news?


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