Cuomo out of line

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a female journalist she was doing “a disservice to women” Dec. 13 by asking what his administration was doing to confront sexual harassment in state government.

Karen DeWitt, the National Public Radio reporter who asked the question, was performing a service for her listeners asking the question, which was more than appropriate even if she was only asking based on the horrendous behavior recently by some members of the U.S. Congress. DeWitt’s question is even more pertinent given the October resignation of Sam Hoyt, head of the Western New York Region of Empire State Development Corp., who had been appointed to the position by Cuomo despite acknowledging an affair with a 19-year-old intern while the married Hoyt was serving in the state Assembly.

Hoyt’s October resignation came after a federal lawsuit by a woman who said Hoyt had helped her get a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles before alleged sexual harassment. The woman’s federal lawsuit also named the governor as a defendant because the woman and her attorneys claim Cuomo appointed Hoyt to his Empire State Development Corp. position despite knowing about Hoyt’s prior actions while he was in the Assembly. Regardless of how the lawsuit is resolved, the matter is public and certainly raises questions about the governor’s appointment of someone whose past actions call his character into question.

Cuomo and his aides have tried to explain his comments to DeWitt by saying the issue is a societal problem, not just a state government problem. While the governor has a point, it is no excuse for his tone-deaf response to DeWitt’s question. After all, it was the governor who helped create the environment for sexual harassment involving state government with his appointment of Hoyt to the Empire State Development Corp.

DeWitt was performing a valuable service last week. The disservice to women was Cuomo’s response. State residents — especially women — not only deserve better, but they deserve an answer to DeWitt’s question without getting a runaround from the governor. Cuomo’s response is unacceptable at all levels. An apology to DeWitt and the taxpayers of New York state is in order.

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