A 165-page report released today by New York State Attorney General Letitia James has found Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, guilty of sexually harassing female employees via unwanted groping, kissing, comments, and questions. The report also indicates that he created a hostile work environment, going so far as to retaliate against one of the women who spurned his advances and went public with her accusation.
The report includes situations involving nine different current and former female employees, some of whom remain anonymous, others of whom have already publicly come forward. It also includes two non-government employee complainants alleging that Cuomo touched them inappropriately in two different instances. The 11 women's accounts together paint a more complete picture of Cuomo's inappropriate conduct, in work events and outside, that the governor has repeatedly come under fire for since allegations first began to surface in December 2020.
These accounts include things like Cuomo reaching under an employee's blouse to grab her breast; butt-grabbing while hugging an employee; asking an employee whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband; asking a member of his protective detail to help him find a girlfriend, saying his criteria would involve someone who "can handle pain"; asking an employee whether she "had been with older men"; kissing an employee on the lips against her will; joking to the same employee that they should play strip poker; telling one female employee that her outfit made her look like a "lumberjack"; calling two employees the "mingle mamas"; addressing an employee exclusively by "sweetheart" or "darling," and also touching her waist and kissing her cheeks.
James' report "conclude[s] that the Executive Chamber's culture—one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor's frequent flirtations and gender-based comments—contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist."
When many of these women first reported incidents that made them uncomfortable, their concerns were regularly swatted away by senior members of the governor's staff, with one accuser saying "even though it was strange and uncomfortable and technically not permissible in a typical workplace environment, I was in this mindset that it was the twilight zone and…the typical rules did not apply."
Though Cuomo has denied almost all of these allegations, investigators "found his denials to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of the evidence obtained during our investigation." In a video released today, Cuomo alleged that in the case of Charlotte Bennett, one of the accusers formerly on his staff who had previously been a victim of sexual assault, he had actually been trying to check in on her, saying "her story resonated deeply with me" due to the fact that one of Cuomo's own family members had been a victim of sexual assault-related trauma."I thought I could help [Bennett] work through a difficult time," Cuomo said, awkwardly hovering on the Bennett case for four minutes.
"Trial by newspaper or by biased reviews are not the way to find the facts in this matter," said Cuomo in the same video. Previously, Cuomo alleged that he was a victim of cancel culture when calls for his resignation surfaced due to sexual harassment allegations. Objecting to "trial by newspaper" is particularly nonsensical, since these charges are now detailed in an attorney general's in-depth report attempting to suss out who is telling the truth.
Cuomo also spent much of his address today criticizing what The New York Times deems newsworthy, saying that him kissing people on their cheeks "is meant to convey warmth, nothing more," and that it's not front page–worthy. He then began playing a strange slideshow with pictures of him caressing people's faces and kissing their cheeks to prove that, in fact, it happens all the time.
Andrew Cuomo is just airing a long sequence of photos of him touching strangers of all backgrounds on the face right now
— Katherine Miller (@katherinemiller) August 3, 2021
"The findings of the report could fuel support for impeachment proceedings against Mr. Cuomo in the State Legislature, which Democrats overwhelmingly control, lead to additional calls for his resignation and influence public opinion as he considers running for a fourth term," reports The New York Times. "Outside lawyers hired by the Assembly's judiciary committee are currently looking at not only the sexual harassment claims, but a series of scandals with a common theme: whether or not Mr. Cuomo abused his power while in office."
The report's findings add significant heft to accusers' accounts, most of which had already surfaced earlier this year. But voters shouldn't let Cuomo's purported sexual misdeeds take all the focus away from prior scandals involving his pandemic-era incompetence and thuggish intimidation techniques, not to mention the fact that the friendly media, which includes his younger brother in CNN's primetime slot, means it's unlikely the "love gov" will face consequences after all.
New York state law doesn't allow for recall initiatives like the one California voters are attempting to use to get rid of their lockdown-happy, French Laundry-dining, playground-padlocker Democratic governor. Cuomo can only be gotten rid of via impeachment, and New York's Democratic-controlled legislature has so far cared too little about his myriad misdeeds—or cared too much about its own partisan stranglehold on power—to start proceedings.
"As citizens, we should be able to extraordinarily punish elected officials who have done an extraordinarily bad job, rather than counting on elected legislators to do the heavy lifting," writes Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch. Perhaps we should have a zero-tolerance policy for governors who issue bad guidance that allows a deadly virus to ravage nursing homes, with improper testing and containment measures, leading to many thousands of deaths (all while securing testing and special favors for VIPs).
Or maybe a zero-tolerance policy for governors who then cover up those numbers, or a zero-tolerance policy for penning a self-aggrandizing memoir about what successful leadership looks like. Or maybe we should have, as the governor himself suggests, a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and the creation of hostile work environments rife with abuse when one has a mighty big job to do—the job of combating a once-in-a-century pandemic, for a state of 20 million people which includes the largest city in the country.
There should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 17, 2013