The Harassment Cuomo Has Admitted To Is Bad Enough That He Should Resign
A majority of office-holding Democrats in New York state are now calling for Andrew Cuomo to step down, in light of the now near-constant stream of allegations of sexual harassment and creating a toxic workplace, as well as the allegations that he misrepresented the number of COVID cases in nursing homes.
Andrew Cuomo disagrees, and during a news conference on Friday, he explained that he thinks he should stay — blaming both "cancel culture" and "political expediency" for the calls for him to resign.
Via LA Times:
"There are often many motivations for making an allegation, and that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision," Cuomo said. "Women have the right to come forward and be heard. But I also want to be clear there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged."
He attacked the lawmakers who called for his resignation, which also include 50 Democratic state legislators. He also made the striking claim that he is a victim of "cancel culture," a charge typically levied by politicians on the right.
"Politicians take positions for all sorts of reasons, including political expediency and bowing to pressure," Cuomo said. "But people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth."
It's hard to claim it's cancel culture when Cuomo has already admitted to behavior that any reasonable person would understand is sexual harassment.
This statement came out right around the same time the New York Times published an article based on interviews with nearly 35 current and former employees of the Cuomo administration who described the work environment as toxic, especially for women.
It is not a perfect article. There are some pretty big problems with it, insofar as damning Cuomo goes — as it is far too focused on what rumors people heard and how they felt, generally, than on specific instances of harassment or mistreatment.
The workers, for the most part, said they did not personally witness overt sexual harassment. But many said they believed that Mr. Cuomo and other officials seemed to focus on how employees looked and how they dressed. Twelve young women said they felt pressured to wear makeup, dresses and heels, because, it was rumored, that was what the governor liked.
Personally, I would not vote to convict on the count of "there was a rumor that he liked women to wear dresses and high heels." People can start a rumor that anyone likes anything. In fact, I would actually go so far as to say it was astonishingly irresponsible of the New York Times to publish that. It doesn't mean it's not true or that it wasn't a toxic work environment, just that it's not great to include rumors like that in investigative articles like this.
This, however, was an actual complaint about an actual thing the interviewees said occurred. And it is clearly messed up:
The current and former aides also said they had seen other examples of insensitivity toward women, like Mr. Cuomo's aides asking pregnant women to sleep at the office during budget negotiations and a failure to provide enough rooms for breastfeeding mothers.
Since the initial accusations from aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, several other women have come forward to tell their own stories — including one woman who says he grabbed her breast underneath her shirt. It's unlikely that these accusations are going to stop any time soon. And with each accusation, it becomes less and less plausible that everyone is making it up.
Now, this may come as a shock to people who hate feminists, but I do not automatically assume that every accusation of sexual harassment or sexual assault is true. I have known people to lie about all kinds of things you wouldn't expect anyone to lie about, which is why when these things happen, I like to take my time before jumping on any bandwagons. And I will not get on one unless I am convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that someone is guilty. We need to take these things seriously both because false charges do ruin people's lives and because every time there is a situation where someone is actually found to have been lying about something like this, it gets hurled violently at every other person who comes forward about their own assault or harassment.
It is worth taking a beat. Always. It is always worth waiting until there is enough evidence to make a decision. One really great piece of evidence is when the accused actually admits to having done the thing of which they are accused (with the exception of Central Park Five-type coerced confessions).
Conveniently, Cuomo has done this! He admitted last week that he made the statements he was accused of making to his aides. Statements like "have you ever been with an older man?"
"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," Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. "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."
Even if absolutely every other thing he is being accused of is not true, that is true. And it is enough. That alone is enough evidence that he should resign, that he should not be the Governor of New York. Because if he's not aware enough of his surroundings to see and notice how he is making people feel, even if he thinks they "misinterpreted" him, he is not someone who should have that kind of power.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse