Minutes before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo belatedly but still shockingly resigned Tuesday, his lawyer Rita Glavin spent 45 minutes spewing ever more unbelievable excuses for the 11 credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him, attacking at least three of his accusers by name. “The complainants need to be scrutinized just as much as the governor, and that didn’t happen here,” she said. When Cuomo appeared, it looked like he was prepared to continue the pathetic defense he began a week ago. Instead, he resigned—a move both unavoidable and unexpected.
Ever since Attorney General Leticia James released her meticulous, 165-page report on her investigation into the allegations against Cuomo and his inner circle, he’s been fighting back—against his accusers for misunderstanding his well-meant hugs and kisses, and against James and her attorneys for bias against him. Even in resigning, he called the James investigation “politically motivated,” but concluded: “Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”
While Cuomo claimed “I take full responsibility for my actions” in his 31-minute statement, he did anything but. Again, he blamed rapidly changing cultural “mores”—plus, apparently, his hands-on Italian-American culture and “New York loving” (as a New Yorker, I am not sure what that is)—for the displays of affection he claimed his 11 accusers misunderstood. He also called the attacks on him ”unfair” and “untruthful,” adding, “And I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society.”
Wait for Cuomo to get a Substack and rail against cancel culture.
In case you want more proof that the besieged governor isn’t taking responsibility and hasn’t learned any lessons, I point you to the most cringe-inducing passage of his statement, in which he cited his three adult daughters. I genuinely hesitate to highlight it, because I don’t think they deserve to be in the public square in this particular way. But again, it’s Cuomo’s doing.
Claiming that “in many ways I see the world” through his daughters’ eyes, he continued, painfully: “I have lived this experience with and through them. I have sat on the couch with them hearing the ugly accusations for weeks. I’ve seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces. And it hurt. I want my three jewels to know this: My greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them. It is still in many ways a man’s world. We have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized. My daughters have more talent and natural gifts than I ever had. I want to make sure society allows them to fly as high as their wings will carry them…. There should be no assumptions, no stereotypes.…
“I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart: I never did, and I never would, intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated…. Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is all about.”
“That’s what life is all about” is an apt coda for women, especially women of a certain age (Cuomo’s), observing this shit show—but not in the way Cuomo meant it.
I am unsourced in Cuomoworld, so I don’t know why the governor changed course so suddenly, after sending Glavin out to smear his accusers again just moments before he stepped down. He lost major supporters like Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand back in February, when they called for him to resign after the first set of accusations (President Joe Biden joined them last week). One harbinger of his sudden turn was top aide Melissa DeRosa’s also seemingly sudden Sunday resignation.
DeRosa’s statement thanked “the people of New York,” but notably not her boss, for the opportunity to serve. “Personally, the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying,” added the loyal aide who was mentioned in the James report almost 200 times, as part of a Cuomo-loyal cadre that created an allegedly “toxic work environment.” Another cue came from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who seemed to be dragging his heels on impeaching the governor, but sounded more convinced on Monday.
It’s probably coincidence, but I’m struck by the resignation’s coming a few hours after The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow revealed the extent to which Cuomo tried to derail the Moreland Commission, which he himself appointed to get to the bottom of New York state’s pestilential corruption problem. He seemed to think it was fine if investigators went after members of the state Assembly and Senate—but when they got closer, he, and again his inner circle, used every means necessary to block their access to the real story and sanitize the final report. He courted its chair, Dayna Perry, “with the same disregard for boundaries” his recent accusers talked about—and also threatened her career, and that of her cochair, now–US Representative Kathleen Rice.
And when then–US Attorney Preet Bharara tried to follow up on the investigation, Cuomo phoned key Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and demanded that the administration call him off—Jarrett confirmed that, on the record—which Farrow and experts he quoted termed potentially “impeachable.” He’s no longer impeachable, but that behavior should be investigated too.
New York will have its first woman governor, moderate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and a female acting lieutenant governor, state Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. There’s a particularly satisfying irony in Stewart-Cousins’s ascent: Cuomo blocked her from becoming Senate leader by allying with the faux-Democrats in the Independent Democrats’ conference, a group of eight who united with Republicans to block change. We should also note: Cuomo, who spoke in front of the New York state seal and flag, said his resignation would be effective in two weeks—and it’s worth wondering whether he will use any of his executive powers to pardon allies or punish foes. He faces criminal investigations for the sexual harassment and assault charges in Albany, Westchester, and New York counties.
I’ve already heard media complaints that disgraced Former Guy Donald Trump has been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment by more women than accuse Cuomo, admitted it on the Access Hollywood tape, and has so far faced zero legal or political consequences. The explanation is simple: Democrats take these issues seriously; Republicans either abet abusers or look away as politics dictate. The Cuomo story is tragic—and it is tragic to me; my late father adored the governor’s late father, erstwhile governor Mario Cuomo—but it’s not because of a double standard. It’s because most Democrats’ “mores” have kept up with the “changing” times, and Cuomo, armed with the power of his office and his lifelong entitlement, thought he didn’t have to.