New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, currently serving his third term, has been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by seven women. The allegations have triggered an outside investigation, calls for resignation from high-ranking Democrats, and an impeachment inquiry from the State Assembly.
Here’s what we know so far:
The first allegations arose in December 2020, when President Joe Biden was reportedly considering Cuomo for Attorney General. At the time, Cuomo was still widely regarded as a hero for how he managed New York’s pandemic response. (This was before he was embroiled in another scandal over underreported COVID death tolls in nursing homes.) He had published a book, won an Emmy, and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. Lingua Franca, a luxury knitwear brand with an Upper East Side #resistance ethos, had even sold cashmere sweaters with “Cuomosexual” embroidered across the front.
On Dec. 11, Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Cuomo, tweeted at Joe Biden, writing: “If you make this man Attorney General, some women like me will be bringing the receipts. We do not need a sexual harasser and abuser as ‘the law,’ of the land.” Her allegation received little attention until Feb. 24, when she published an essay alleging that the governor made persistent sexual comments when she was his employee and kissed her without her consent.
Since then, six more women have come forward with allegations of workplace sexual harassment or other misconduct. The allegations vary in severity and scale, with one accusation of groping made by an unidentified woman on March 10 potentially reaching “the level of a crime,” according to Albany police.
Cuomo’s first accuser, Boylan, 36, worked at the New York state economic development agency from 2015 to 2018. She is currently running for Manhattan borough president.
In her essay, Boylan wrote about multiple uncomfortable and sexualized interactions she had with Cuomo over the course of several years. She claimed in 2016 her boss told her the governor had a “crush” on her, and that Cuomo made comments about her looks, including telling Boylan she could be the “better looking sister” to his rumored ex-girlfriend Lisa Shields. In 2017, she alleges, Cuomo suggested they “play strip poker” while on a plane.
Boylan also alleges that the harassment was physical. “I had complained to friends that the governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” she wrote. Boylan also claims that Cuomo “stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips” as she was leaving a one-on-one briefing in 2018.
The governor has denied the allegations. Boylan has called on Cuomo to resign.
A few days after Boylan published her account, Charlotte Bennett, 25, came forward with sexual harassment allegations of her own. Bennett worked as an assistant and policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until November 2020. At first, she saw Cuomo as a mentor.
But in early June 2020, Bennett alleges Cuomo asked her numerous inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she slept with older men. In the same conversation, Cuomo allegedly told her that he was looking for a girlfriend and was “fine with anyone above the age of 22,” which Bennett interpreted as a sexual advance. She also noted that throughout their professional relationship he had seemed fixated on her past experience of sexual assault. Bennett says she reported the conversation to Jill DesRosiers, Cuomo’s chief of staff, and was transferred to a different job within a month.
Cuomo responded to the allegations, saying “I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”
Anna Ruch, 33, claims that Cuomo made an unwanted advance towards her at a wedding in 2019, clasping her face and asking if he could kiss her. Unlike most of the other women mentioned here, Ruch is not and never has been employed by the governor’s office or the state of New York. Still, her account—and the photo that captured her discomfort—was a turning point, prompting several state Democratic officials to call on Cuomo to resign.
A few days after Ruch’s allegations surfaced Cuomo issued a public statement from the State Capitol. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” However, he denied ever touching anyone inappropriately.
Hinton, who worked for Cuomo when he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration, alleged that Cuomo gave her an unsolicited “intimate embrace” in a hotel room in 2000. “I pulled away. He brought me back. I pulled away again and I said, ‘Look I need some sleep, I am going,” she said in a TV interview.
Cuomo has denied her account, describing Hinton as “a longtime political adversary.”
Ana Liss, 35, another former aide, claims Cuomo kissed her hand, touched her lower back, called her “sweetheart,” and asked whether she had a boyfriend while she was working for him between 2013 and 2015. Liss has stated that she initially saw this behavior as harmless flirtation, but gradually began to see it as inappropriate and patronizing.
A senior Cuomo adviser characterized Cuomo’s interactions with Liss as typical for his office. “I understand that sensitivities have changed and behavior has changed, and I get it. And I’m going to learn from it,” Cuomo said.
On March 10, the Times Union of Albany reported that a female aide, whose identity the newspaper has not made public, alleged that Cuomo “aggressively” groped her at the Executive Mansion in late 2020. The aide, a young woman, had been summoned to the governor’s private residence to assist him with a technical issue. They were alone when Cuomo allegedly “reached under her blouse and began to fondle her,” according to the Times Union report.
Cuomo issued a statement denying the allegations. “I have never done anything like this,” the governor said, before acknowledging that “the details of this report are gut-wrenching.”
This allegation could turn out to be significant, as groping qualifies as a form of sexual assault. Sexual assault, unlike sexual harassment, is a criminal matter. The allegation has been formally referred to the Albany Police Department, but as of March 11, there had been no formal criminal complaint and no active criminal investigation, according to an APD spokesman.
Two days later, Bakeman, a political reporter who formerly covered the New York Capitol in Albany, alleged in New York magazine that Cuomo was physically inappropriate with her on multiple occasions. “Keeping his grip on me as I practically squirmed to get away from him, the governor turned my body to face a different direction for yet another picture. He never let go of my hand,” she wrote. Cuomo allegedly responded to her discomfort by saying, “I’m sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady.”
The same day, New York magazine published an in-depth cover story on the culture of harassment and dysfunction in the governor’s office. One former staffer, Joel Wertheimer, characterized upper level employees—including Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide and one of several high-ranking women the governor has historically pointed to as evidence of his lack of chauvinism—as both “mean” and “bad at their jobs.” The New York Times published a similar piece, describing the Cuomo administration as a toxic environment for women.
On March 3, after Boylan, Bennett, and Ruch had publicly stated their accounts, but before Hinton, Liss, Bakeman, or the unnamed seventh woman came forward, Cuomo issued a public statement. “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny,” he said. “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
“To be clear,” Cuomo added, “I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”
Some called his statement a “non-apology” and said it was insulting to women.
Cuomo’s office asked the state attorney general’s office to launch an outside investigation. On March 8, New York Attorney General Letitia James named two lawyers, Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark, to lead an independent investigation into these accusations, which is likely to take months. Kim, a former federal prosecutor, and Clark, an employment lawyer, will have subpoena power to request documents and compel witnesses.
The New York State Assembly also opened an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo’s conduct on March 11. This gives the Assembly’s judiciary committee jurisdiction to investigate the allegations and could ultimately lead to impeachment. If so, it would be the first such effort in New York in over a century.
A growing number of elected officials across party lines, including New York’s Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on Cuomo to resign. “Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York,” they said in a joint statement. Twelve of the 19 House Democrats from New York—including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler—have also called on Cuomo to resign.
On March 16, President Biden said in an interview with ABC News that Cuomo should resign if the investigation confirms the women’s claims. If that’s the case, Biden said, “I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too.”
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