Andrew Cuomo was the most recent and 56th governor of New York. He was elected to the position in 2011, following his father Mario Mathew Cuomo who was governor for three consecutive terms. Cuomo is a lawyer and a member of the Democratic Party who made his political debut in 1982 whilst working as his father’s campaign manager for the gubernatorial election. Today, Cuomo has reached one of the lowest points in his governing tenure as sexual harassment claims and allegations have been brought to light against him.
The Claims and Allegations
Multiple women have come forward accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment along with other types of inappropriate behavior. Letitia James, the state attorney general, opened an investigation into these allegations.
36-year-old Lindsey Boylan, a former aide, accused Cuomo of kissing her on the lips, which was an unwanted sexual advance along with other inappropriate forms of touching. She stated in an interview with the New York Times “As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips”. Cuomo denied her claims.
25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, another former aide who left the Cuomo administration back in November, accused him of sexual harassment. She stated “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared” she said in an interview with the New York Times. Bennett claimed that Cuomo made sexual advances to her by probing her with inappropriate sexual related questions. Cuomo denied her claim asserting he never made any advances towards her.
Following these 2 claims, other women came forward recounting unwanted sexual advances they had experienced with Cuomo, which amounted to a total of 11. To these, Cuomo followed suit and continued to deny any claims.
Cuomo’s first “Apology”
To these claims Cuomo first came out to deny these allegations in a twisted apology. He asserted that these women were misunderstanding his playfulness and sense of humour as sexual harassment. He stated “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private”. His statement negated the women’s allegations and trivialized them. He then expressed that he understood how his actions may have been too insensitive or personal and apologized on that account, adding “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Aside from the societal condemnation of Cuomo, he received political backlash as well, notably from both political parties. His ability to govern was put into question as criticism over the allegations brought against him led politicians to note his other failures. Nearly all democrats in New York’s congressional delegation stated that Cuomo should step down. Whilst other elected officials called for an impeachment.
Cuomo’s second “Apology” and Resignation
Following the backlash Cuomo resigned as governor and offered an odd apology in attempts to appear sympathetic whilst taking zero responsibility. He attempted to minimize the allegations to a political attack by stating “there are many agendas, and there are many motivations at play”. For every claim made against him, Cuomo had a retort, twisting the truth brought forward by these women. He undermined them and brought to question their memories and dignity. He has stated in his defense that he has “been too familiar with people”. To top it off he thanked the women for coming forward stating “It’s not easy to step forward, but you did an important service, and you taught me and you taught others an important lesson. Personal boundaries must be expanded and must be protected”.
The End of Impeachment
Although talks and demands of impeachment were ongoing for months, they have officially been suspended. The impeachment investigation was suspended after Cuomo resigned, despite having uncovered credible evidence in regards to the claims made against Cuomo. Complaints are arising stating that the investigation should have been completed and the report made public.
For too long men in all walks of life have gotten away with a mere slap on the wrist for sexual misconduct and harassment. This continues to be the case in the United States political sphere. Politicians are continuously being exposed for their wrongdoings and yet not much is done. It took Cuomo a mere minute or so to violate the integrity of these women, and yet it takes months on end to bring him to justice, to have him face consequences. We need to rethink these processes and make sure all men no matter their statue or political power are held accountable.