The Case Against Cuomo—and Those Who Enabled Him

The Case Against Cuomo—and Those Who Enabled Him

The Case Against Cuomo—and Those Who Enabled Him

The devastating investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the governor confirms what many already knew: It’s time for him to go.


Seventy-four thousand documents, 200 interviews, 168 pages, and five months after the Office of the Attorney General launched its investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the report confirmed what nearly a dozen women told us from the start: Cuomo is hot garbage.

Independent investigators managed to corroborate nearly every detail of the flurry of allegations that began when Lindsey Boylan publicly accused the governor of sexual harassment in December and culminated with the charges of an anonymous executive assistant in April.

Alongside the many verified claims of disgusting comments and forcible touching, they caught the governor in various lies, both big and small. Even as he offered blanket denials that he never touched anyone inappropriately, they collected testimony from real-time witnesses who observed the governor tracing his fingers across the stomach of a state trooper. They got Boylan’s former boss to flip on his previous public statement categorically rejecting her claims that the governor suggested playing strip poker on a plane. They even caught him lying about not knowing the lyrics to a song, which was easily disproved by audiotapes.

And they proved one of the most important facts of the case: Cuomo didn’t act alone when he engaged in “unlawful sex based harassment.” The report repeatedly drilled in the grotesque lengths to which the governor’s senior staff—led by his top aide Melissa DeRosa—covered up multiple and harrowing accounts of his misconduct. And it revealed that the head of advocacy of Times Up and the famed attorney Roberta Kaplan offered their approval of a letter that never went public but “denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated (including with theories about connections with supporters of President Trump and a politician with an alleged interest in running for Governor).”

Somehow the public needed all this detail to take seriously the women who spoke out about their abuse—never mind the documentation they supplied and/or witnesses they provided to support their claims at the time they made them. It was left to Attorney General Letitia James, speaking in barely a whisper to keep the rage quiet on her lips, to validate the victims as reliable witnesses to their own abuse. “I’m inspired by all the heroic women who came forward,” she said, “and I believe them.”

Those four little words were like a gunshot going off in the room, and a cue to every public official watching that the state’s highest law enforcement officer wasn’t buying Cuomo’s bullshit.

That didn’t stop him from trying. In a prerecorded video message delivered an hour after James’s press conference, Cuomo peddled the fallacy that his only crime was caring too much. Well-lit and wearing make-up—possibly supplied to him by his brother, who’s been moonlighting as a crisis PR consultant while pretending to be a journalist on CNN—he gave a master class in gaslighting. Taking aim at Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant to Cuomo and the second woman to publicly accuse him of harassment, he weaponized her status as a rape survivor, implying that her trauma meant that she “heard things that I just didn’t say.” Cuomo apparently has a side hustle as a rape crisis counselor in his own family, so he just thought, “I could help her work through a difficult time.” This apparently entailed asking her invasive questions about her assault and musing about whether it made her less likely to be sexually monogamous and therefore open to sleeping with older men like her 63-year-old boss. Please clap.

The real victims, though, per Cuomo, are the senior women on his staff who violated the office sexual harassment policy by choosing to screw with a 25-year-old employee’s head, complimenting her “friendship” with the governor and ability to take “control of the situation” before it went any further. Let’s not all praise these feminist heros at once, though! Cuomo whined on that the report “is sexist and must be challenged” for holding women to the double standard of expecting them to follow the New York State Human Rights Law as well as the Executive Chamber’s own reporting requirements.

DeRosa herself, Cuomo’s chief #girlboss, started laying the groundwork for this ridiculous defense weeks ago, comparing herself to Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada on Twitter (and then deleting it). Forget that nonsense. These women are sitting pretty on the ground-up dust of the female staff they refused to protect. They advanced themselves through an amoral man who used them shamelessly as feminist beards to cover for his crimes. It was a fair trade—no one was taken advantage of—and they acted every bit as awful as the men they demand to be treated as equal to.

That’s not a conflict for Kaplan who represents both Times Up and now DeRosa as her personal attorney. In fact, it’s right on brand for an organization of women that cozies up to patriarchy, not only failing to call for Cuomo’s resignation when Boylan and Bennett first came forward but also suggesting that he investigate himself.

Since 2019, Time’s Up has eagerly propped up Cuomo, who took credit for a whole bunch of sexual harassment reforms after ignoring the women on the ground who did the work to pass them. Times Up had no problem lauding him at a bill signing when he refused to be in the same room with the bill’s sponsor, Senator Alessandra Biaggi (who previously worked for him). And they gleefully raised money off the new legislation without ever mentioning the volunteer worker collective known as the Sexual Harassment Working Group, which spearheaded efforts to change the legal standard to prove harassment. Whereas once workers had to show that harassment was “severe or pervasive”—an onerous and ambiguous threshold—the very law Cuomo signed now makes it possible for his victims to get justice in the eyes of the law.

It made all the difference for Anne Clark, one of the special prosecutors who conducted the investigation and delivered the results at James’ press conference: “In New York a woman need only show that she was treated less well because of her gender.”

Case closed.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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