It has been a relatively swift descent into political hell for the soon-to-be-former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. On August 10th, Cuomo, unable to find a political lifeline and sensing the inevitability of his impeachment over an escalating sexual harassment scandal, resigned. The shocking announcement came minutes after his lawyer once again flatly denied claims that he had sexually harassed anyone during his three terms in office. “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing, and I cannot be the cause of that,” Cuomo said. “I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let [the] government get back to governing.”
The trouble began for Cuomo on December 13th, 2020, when a former aide Lindsey Boylan tweeted, “Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.”
“And I know I am not the only woman,” she added.
Cuomo vehemently denied the allegations the following day during a virtual briefing. “It’s not true,” Cuomo said. “Look, I fought for, and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has, but it’s just not true.”
In February 2021, Boylan expanded on the allegations in a Medium post:
Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.
A few days later, on February 27th, 2021, another victim, Charlotte Bennett, accused Cuomo of trying to entice her into bed. (The Governor again denied the allegations and described himself as a “mentor” to Bennett.) Then on March 1st, the third accuser, Anna Ruch, came forward, claiming that Cuomo had inappropriately touched her at a wedding. Several more women came forward between then and the beginning of the New York Attorney General’s investigation that eventually came to include 11 accusers.
And yet, during the 21-minute address from his Manhattan office yesterday, Cuomo still managed to strike a “defiant tone,” refusing to say that he had done anything wrong. At times, he moved between absent-mindedness and thoughtlessness: “I don’t remember doing it at all I just wasn’t thinking,” he said in relation to one accusation by a female state trooper. “It was totally thoughtless in the literal sense of the word ”
Few political leaders have descended so quickly from frenzied worship to ubiquitous condemnation
At other times, he struck out against his political enemies, blaming them for his stunning downfall: “Now, obviously in a highly political matter like this, there are many agendas, and there are many motivations at play. If anyone thought otherwise, they would be naive, and New Yorkers are not naive.”
“Because I truly believe it is politically motivated,” Cuomo continued, “I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful. And I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society. If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand.”
And, of course, he took the time to reminisce about his quickly disintegrating political legacy: “We made New York state the progressive capital of the nation. No other state government accomplished more to help people, and that is what it’s all about.” He went on to list his accomplishments:
We passed marriage equality, creating a new civil right, legalized love for the LGBTQ community, and we generated a force for change that swept the nation. We passed the SAFE Act years ago, the smartest gun safety law in the United States of America, and it banned the madness of assault weapons Fifteen-dollar minimum wage, the highest minimum wage in the nation, lifting millions of families’ standard of living, putting more food on the table and clothes on their backs. And we led the nation in economic justice with that reform And, more than any state in the nation, [we built] the most effective green economy program in the nation.
It is no wonder Cuomo has stolen the heart of the Democratic Party.
When confronted with the 168-page report issued last week by New York Attorney General Letitia James, President Biden joined other Democratic lawmakers in asking Cuomo to step down, but clarified following remarks on the Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he still thinks the three-term governor has done “a hell of a job.”
Is it a wonder then that Cuomo, given the apparent burden of his bad behavior, has survived as long as he has, as though he lives in his own parallel universe of blithe denial. Cuomo has become the personification of liberal hypocrisy, narcissism, and media manipulation. Few political leaders have descended so quickly from frenzied worship to ubiquitous condemnation; few so brilliantly exemplify how Democratic leaders really have to push the envelope of outrage to reach the precipice of impeachment or resignation.
Cuomo is no stranger to political scandal. In 2013, he set up a high-powered commission to root out corruption in New York politics, only to have it reported that the Governor was directing the Moreland Commission away from investigations that could be politically damaging to himself. In 2016, two of his aides, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, were indicted as part of a massive bribery investigation. And who can forget how the embattled Governor continues to be blamed for creating a nursing home crisis in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of up to 15,000 long-term residents.
This same unremitting narcissism and bombastic belief that he has done nothing wrong
The controversy over nursing home deaths rose to a crisis led to an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office, which found the state Health Department under-reported the COVID-19 death toll at nursing homes by as much as 50%. After a top aide to the Governor admitted that New York had withheld data because it feared an investigation by the Trump Justice Department, a joint probe was initiated by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI. That investigation was ongoing when the sexual harassment allegations began to surface and be taken seriously by the public.
Nevertheless, he persisted. Empowered when the Biden DOJ eventually backed down, Cuomo released a statement on July 26th calling the allegations around his COVID-19 policies “outrageous.” He added that he considered the inquiry to be politically motivated: “The political environment has gotten so toxic in this country. So toxic, so mean. It was an outrageous allegation It was toxic politics. It violated the basic concept of justice in this nation, and it did a lot of harm and a lot of damage. And it went on too long. I mean, this went on for like a year until finally the Department of Justice dismissed it.”
This same unremitting narcissism and bombastic belief that he has done nothing wrong, certainly nothing warranting resignation or even a comprehensive apology, followed Cuomo into the sexual harassment allegations. It’s what makes his case a fascinating example of how liberal politicians seem to think the rules and even the laws don’t apply to them. To Democrats, their political agenda supersedes such corruption, and their lives cannot be judged like other people.
Though Cuomo is now facing impeachment and a criminal complaint over his harassment of women, there is still a chance he could walk away from this shameful episode as a retired politician. Some are suspecting that yesterday’s announcement was designed with that in mind: on August 5th, New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) sent notice that investigations into Cuomo’s administration were nearing completion and “the Assembly will soon consider potential articles of impeachment.” Less than a week later, Cuomo announced his indignant resignation, calling into question whether impeachment was still constitutionally viable.
Refusing any accountability-in this or any other of the myriad of accusations leveled against him, Cuomo has moved from one excuse to the next. Excuses like, just like in the case of the nursing home deaths his policies caused, this was all about politics. He said as much in his resignation speech:
This is about politics, and our political system today is too often driven by the extremes. Rashness has replaced reasonableness. Loudness has replaced soundness. Twitter has become the public square for policy debate. There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender-based actions, on generational and cultural behavioral differences, on setting higher standards, and finding reasonable resolutions. But the political environment is too hot, and it is too reactionary for that now, and it is unfortunate.
To any reasonable person, the irony in this explanation is almost beyond belief. This most partisan of Democratic governors never missed an opportunity to castigate former President Donald Trump for his management of the COVID-19 pandemic, even blaming him for the nursing home debacle. But just in the case of his coronavirus policies, Cuomo, well-practiced in deflecting blame and politicizing the suffering of others to his benefit, knows how to avoid responsibility.
The Attorney General’s report explains how:
We, the investigators appointed to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, conclude that the Governor engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York State law. Specifically, we find that the Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.
The report notes that Cuomo didn’t just contain his “sexually harassing behavior” to his own staff; he harassed other state employees as well, creating a culture of “fear and intimidation” in his office. It outlines the stories of many of these employees, but that of Lindsey Boylan, who worked for the chief of staff to the CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation and occupied other government positions, stood out especially: According to the report:
The Governor, among other things, engaged in the following harassing conduct on the basis of her gender: (1) commented on her appearance and attractiveness, including comparing her to a former girlfriend and describing her as attractive; (2) paid attention to her in a way that led her supervisor at ESD to say that the Governor had a ‘crush’ on her and to ask her whether she needed help in dealing with the Governor’s conduct; (3) physically touched her on various parts of her body, including her waist, legs, and back; (4) made inappropriate comments, including saying to her once on a plane, words to the effect of, ‘let’s play strip poker’; 17 and (5) kissed her on the cheeks and, on one occasion, on the lips.
Remember: this is just one of the 11 complainants. And who knows if further allegations will surface as the case moves to trial. Cuomo still denies all of it-going as far as to blame systemic bias in the criminal justice system in his live-stream yesterday:
My lawyers, as you just heard from Rita Glavin, have reviewed the report over the past several days and have already raised serious issues and flaws. That should concern all New Yorkers because when there is a bias or a lack of fairness in the justice system, it is a concern for everyone, not just those immediately affected. The most serious allegations made against me had no credible, factual basis in the report. And there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment.
He was just as unrepentant last week in his response to the AG report. In what must rank as one of the most bizarre and surreal news conferences on record, Cuomo attempted to normalize his office hi-jinks by suggesting he treated everyone in this manner:
Other complainants raised against me questions that have sought to unfairly characterize and weaponize everyday interactions that I’ve had with any number of New Yorkers. The New York Times published a front-page picture of me touching a woman’s face at a wedding and then kissing her on the cheek. That is not front-page news. I’ve been making the same gesture in public all my life. I actually learned that from my mother and from my father. It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more. Indeed, there are hundreds, if not thousands of photos of me using the exact same gesture. I do it with everyone, black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street. After the event, the woman told the press that she took offense at the gesture. And for that, I apologize.
All this by a man whose political career has been partly defined by his being a male feminist, someone who publicly lauded the equality of women and condemned sexism.
This persona, the over-eager male feminist, is a revered tradition in Democratic politics, exemplified not just by former president Bill Clinton, who feminists defended despite his long history of sexual escapades, but also by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who, despite his political rhetoric about the advancement of women’s position in our society, was a carefree womanizer his entire life and who infamously left a woman to die after he drunkenly crashed his car into the waters at Chappaquiddick.
Cuomo is accused of violating his own sexual harassment policy, his famous “zero tolerance” policy.
Consider this: Cuomo is accused of violating his own sexual harassment policy, his famous “zero tolerance” policy. He actually attended the sexual harassment training workshop that any senior government manager from New York was required to participate in. During his re-election campaign in 2018, he ran ads promoting that New York had “the strongest sexual harassment policy in the nation.” But hey, those are rules for the masses, not the liberal elites who are supposedly doing so much for the common folk.
As governor, Cuomo repeatedly voiced his support for the victims of sexual harassment-when it was politically convenient to do so. In 2016, Cuomo sat for an interview with NY1 to discuss the infamous Access Hollywood tape featuring then-President Donald Trump. Cuomo called the President’s rhetoric “disgusting on a basic human level.” In 2018, following the Senate’s vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he released a statement saying, “The confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a sad day for this country, and it will haunt us for as long as he is on the court.” He continued, “In New York, we will not waver and will not back down. To Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual assault, we believe you, and we will fight for you.”
Like so many liberal politicians, Cuomo consistently postured in the public forum as a politician attuned to women’s issues and dedicated to women’s rights while repudiating such a commitment in his private life.
ENABLING MEDIA’S DARLING
Even as he fell from grace, Cuomo’s immense sense of self-importance and entitlement has remained intact. That sense of entitlement was no doubt inflated by how much he felt he had to offer the liberal agenda. And he wasn’t alone in feeling this way: for the longest time, the establishment media was on his side.
All through 2020, the left-wing media worshipped Cuomo throughout the coronavirus outbreak, feeding his monumental ego and persistent narcissism.
It will remain a fascinating political story of how Democrats are insulated from their own bad behavior by a mainstream media that is all too willing to look the other way until the weight of evidence just becomes overwhelming. Cuomo’s fall from grace might have been even swifter if the mainstream media had been more tenacious in their coverage of the Democratic leader, whose partisan loyalties have long enabled his bad behavior.
All through 2020, the left-wing media worshiped Cuomo throughout the coronavirus outbreak, feeding his monumental ego and persistent narcissism. MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace tweeted back in May that, “People will watch this @NYGovCuomo presser when they study crisis leadership-especially his remarks about misinformation being more dangerous than the virus.” Wallace even decided to ignore Cuomo’s legal team when they attempted to defend the Governor in a news conference that turned out to be another strange display of political theater. Cuomo’s lawyers decided to go on the offensive, saying the investigation was a political witch hunt and questioning the integrity of Cuomo’s accusers.
And consider the kind of praise and the build-up he received from his kid brother, CNN evening host Chris Cuomo; that must certainly have gone to the elder Cuomo’s head. Chris Cuomo not only heaped praise on his sibling, but advised him on how to respond to the media fallout from the sexual harassment allegations.
Cuomo believed so strongly in his own infallibility and public relations that he actually wrote a book entitled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic. Of course, the leadership lessons were all drawn from Cuomo’s imagined decisive response to the coronavirus. The problem was that the Governor had recklessly ordered thousands of geriatric patients into nursing homes and then undercounted the deaths that resulted-something he has never acknowledged nor taken responsibility for. Why should he when the media worshipped at his altar and he had actually set the “gold standard” of leadership, as President Biden insisted? The Governor even won an Emmy award for the caliber of his daily COVID-19 briefings.
The media has long-reinforced this illusion of Cuomo’s infallibility, which no doubt let him hold onto power despite his mistreatment of women. As that mistreatment came to light, a plethora of left-wing journalist acolytes had to run away from their hagiographic depiction of Cuomo.
Cuomo might be forgiven for thinking that the world revolves around him, given the overwhelming support he has received in the past from so many friendly sectors. And it is worthy of noting that, although the mainstream media did report the growing number of sexual harassment allegations, it has largely ignored the nursing home scandal-Cuomo’s abject dereliction of duty and responsibility as the chief executive of a large and powerful state. Chris Cuomo, meanwhile, has said nothing about the AG report on his nightly CNN program.
So while Cuomo is increasingly looking like a failed politician now, it is undeniable that he has survived this long through the good graces of friendly liberal media-of friendly liberal culture-who have often looked the other way because Cuomo may not have done the right things, but he said the things they liked to hear. After all, even after all of this, Andrew Cuomo is still ranked number one choice for governor by New York Democrats, according to a new poll released this week.
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