Andrew Cuomo Was Just Workshopping His Gross Dirty Old Boss Routine, For Humorous Japery!
Last week, when former New York economic development official Lindsey Boylan accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, he came out guns blazing to deny the charges. Boylan's "claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false" was the official statement. However, a second former aide, Charlotte Bennett, came forward, and now Cuomo has advanced to the faux contrition stage.
"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."
Who writes these statements? They always shift the focus onto the accuser, who must've "misinterpreted" what presumably normal people would consider benign behavior. Cuomo is truly sorry "anyone felt that way." He's apologizing because his well-intentioned comedy act bombed. He was just being "playful" in the workplace.
Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious a… https://t.co/f4s9FWUBBk— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1614524778.0
Boylan describes in a Medium post how when she was hired, she was warned to be “careful around the governor," as if she was responsible for his behavior. In 2016, she was told Cuomo had a “crush on her." The post includes a screenshot of an email from Stephanie Benton, director of the governor's offices. Benton claimed Cuomo had suggested Boylan look up pictures of Lisa Shields, whom he was rumored to have dated, because they “could be sisters," but Boylan was the “better-looking sister." While flying back from a 2017 event, Cuomo, 63, allegedly suggested they play strip poker. In 2018, Boylan claims Cuomo kissed her full on the mouth, which is easily “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation."
As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.
This was all post-#MeToo and #TimesUp, which had apparently frightened male supervisors so much they were concerned about being alone with a woman colleague unless they'd left their penises with HR. Maybe all that backlash was bullshit.
The allegations of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by… https://t.co/CbQske7ngK— Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (@Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) 1614546502.0
Charlotte Bennett claims that Cuomo harassed her last spring, when he was gaining national attention and (arguably undue) praise for his management of the COVID-19 outbreak. There's currently a federal inquiry into whether Cuomo “dramatically and intentionally" understated the virus-related death toll in nursing homes. Cuomo, the supposed “straight shooter" on COVID-19, was possibly cooking the books like a common Ron DeSantis. If true, it's still possibly less damaging than these harassment allegations.
Bennett told the New York Times that when she was alone with Cuomo in his state Capitol office, he asked her numerous personal questions, like whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships and if she'd been involved with older men. WTF? She wasn't auditioning for "The Bachelor." He also said he was up for dating women in their 20s, which is a "fish like water" admission. Bennett is 25. She was promised a future of hover cars and no dirty old men bosses. We have failed her.
Mr. Cuomo said in a statement to The Times on Saturday that he believed he had been acting as a mentor and had "never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate."
Cuomo had fundraised off the #MeToo movement in 2018. He praised "women across the country" for "courageously speak(ing) out about facing sexual assault and harassment." He apparently wasn't listening while these women were speaking.
The walls are now closing in on Cuomo. Democrats are distancing themselves and calling for an independent investigation (not someone Cuomo appoints himself).
"There are serious questions about his ability to retain his power," said Kenneth Sherrill, a professor of political science at Hunter College.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the sexual assault allegations against NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "There should… https://t.co/7fdIFmkcxU— CNN Politics (@CNN Politics) 1614522885.0
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told CNN's "State of the Union" that "it was hard to read that story, as a woman," and that President Joe Biden supports an independent investigation into the "serious" allegations. (Oh, yes, Dana Bash accidentally referred to "Governor Chris Cuomo" before later correcting herself. It's going to be awkward at CNN for a while.)
It boggles the mind that Cuomo was behaving this way so recently, especially after having denounced how Republicans handled the accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But sexual harassment is about power and powerful men always believe the rules don't apply to them, even the standards they set for everyone else.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."