New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been at the center of many headlines over the past year, as New York was one of the world’s biggest COVID-19 epicenters. The measures Cuomo took received praise from many sources as he helped wrest the state’s cases under control quickly. And even as recently as January, celebrities praised Cuomo for his eco-conscious handling of the climate crisis. Now, however, his chorus of celebrity supporters are silent as a sexual harassment scandal grows around the governor and an impeachment probe is launched.
Cuomo Comes Under Fire
Cuomo’s three terms in office have not been tumult-free, but this is undeniably the worst of the governor’s scandals. A number of women, many current or former state employees, have stepped forward to accuse the Democrat governor of sexual harassment over his time in office. Once the accusations became public, the backlash was instant. Republicans and Democrats, for once united on a topic, are calling for Cuomo’s resignation or at least a proper investigation into the claims. New York Attorney General Letitia James has assigned two outside lawyers to investigate the accusations.
The New York Times reports, “Calls for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation have spread from Republicans to his fellow Democrats, and from Albany, the State Capitol, to Washington, where most of New York’s congressional delegation has joined the chorus demanding that he step down. Those urging Mr. Cuomo to resign include the state’s U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The State Assembly, which, like the State Senate, is controlled by Democrats, has opened an impeachment inquiry to encompass the harassment allegations as well as questions about the Cuomo administration’s handling of coronavirus-related deaths of nursing home residents.”
Last year, the first accusation came from Lindsey Boylan. NYT reports, “Ms. Boylan, who worked at the state’s economic development agency from 2015 to 2018, detailed several years of uncomfortable interactions with Mr. Cuomo.
Ms. Boylan, 36, said her boss at the time had told her that Mr. Cuomo had a ‘crush’ on her and that the governor had gone ‘out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.’”
Charlotte Bennett, former aide to Cuomo, next made accusations against the governor. Bennett says Cuomo asked her about her sex life, and whether she had slept with older men. The NYT shares, “‘I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,’ Ms. Bennett told The Times. ‘And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.’”
Then Anna Ruch said the governor aggressively pursued and touched her after they met at a private event. In the wake of the first three victims to come forward, more women came forward to share their experience at the hands of Cuomo. Most share the same common thread; they were employed under the governor at the time of their harassment. Workplace harassment is exceptionally egregious because there’s usually a power dynamic involved. Cuomo, however, seems oblivious to the impropriety of making passes as a government superior.
Celebrities Suddenly Fall Silent in Support of Cuomo
Cuomo has been wildly popular for his handling of the COVID crisis in New York, as well as his response to the climate crisis. But now, those who have openly praised Cuomo are suddenly mum on the governor’s character.
Fox News reports, “2020 saw female comedian Chelsea Handler admit she is ‘pretty hot for’ Cuomo, while singer Cher tweeted she had fallen ‘in love’ with the governor. Red Table Talk co-host Jada Pinkett Smith previously referred to him as her ‘celebrity crush,’ noting at the time that she didn’t miss one of his press conferences.
Actor Robert De Niro once fielded a question about playing a current-day politician in a movie about the coronavirus and expressed interest in landing a fantasized part as Cuomo. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio showed support for Cuomo as recently as this January on Twitter, although it was centered on the governor’s focus on climate change.”
Since the scandal broke, Fox has reached out to his celebrity fan club, including Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Alyssa Milano, and Jimmy Fallon. However, no one wants to go on the record in support of the governor anymore. Who does Cuomo have left in his corner? The answer seems to be: perhaps those in positions of power.
Boylan Refuses to Cooperate with Impeachment Probe
As the scandal grows and outrage over Cuomo’s behavior spreads, an impeachment probe is being launched. It will investigate both the sexual harassment claims, and Cuomo’s handling of COVID-related nursing home deaths. Boylan, the first woman to step forward against Cuomo last year, has said she refuses to comply with the impeachment probe, however. Boylan said on Twitter, “What would be the point of survivors talking to investigators of your sham investigation @[Carl Heastie]?
I am in conversation with other women who have no interest in your corrupt, cynical ‘investigation.’ Hard pass.”
It’s clear Boylan believes that the impeachment is nothing but smoke and mirrors that will exonerate the governor and further sweep victims’ accusations under the rug.
Cuomo Apologizes but Remains Defiant
Cuomo, for his part, has issued an apology. However, it might be more aptly called a “non-apology” as he continues to maintain that he had good intentions and has done nothing impeachable. Cuomo blasts calls for him to resign as, “anti-democratic.”
The New York Times shares parts of Cuomo’s apology; “‘I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,’ he said at a news briefing on March 3. ‘It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly embarrassed by it and that’s not easy to say but that’s the truth.’
He said that he had ‘never touched anyone inappropriately.’
‘I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,’ he said. ‘And I certainly never meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do.’
Asked about the episode recounted by Ms. Ruch, Mr. Cuomo said that kissing and hugging was his ‘usual and customary way of greeting.’”
As an embattled Cuomo digs into the trenches and prepares to fight to the bitter end, celebrities distance themselves and victims gird for a long battle, cries for his resignation continue. Cuomo’s attempt to brush his harassment off as a misunderstanding and tactical denial of certain parts of the accusations rings hollow, and victims are carefully preparing their path forward, determined to find justice.