Stefanik says Cuomo must resign, calls him ‘sexual predator’
North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is again calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign after a former member of Cuomo’s staff publicly accused him of workplace sexual harassment.
“Governor Cuomo must immediately resign,” Stefanik wrote in a statement Wednesday. “And any elected official who does not immediately call for his resignation is complicit in allowing a sexual predator to continue leading the great state of New York.”
Stefanik, a Republican from Schuylerville, has been publicly feuding with the Democratic governor recently. She did not answer a question asking why she did not call for the resignation of former President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
Lindsay Boylan, in an essay she posted Wednesday morning on Medium.com, detailed years of alleged “degrading,” “uncomfortable” and “insidious” harassment while she worked for Cuomo in Empire State Development and as a deputy secretary for economic development and special advisor to the governor. She accused him of an unconsensual kiss in his Manhattan office, comments comparing her looks to those of another women he was rumored to have dated, and unwanted touching of her lower back, arms and legs. She wrote that this all led to her September 2018 resignation.
Boylan is currently running to be Manhattan borough president.
In December 2020, Boylan said in a tweet that “@NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” At that time, Stefanik called “for an independent investigation into the serious allegations of pervasive workplace sexual harassment and verbal abuse by Governor Andrew Cuomo.” Stefanik did not answer a question asking if anyone has acted on her call for an investigation.
Other northern New York lawmakers also said they were alarmed by Boylan’s accusations but stopped short of calling for Cuomo to quit.
State Assemblyman Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, said the allegations were “disturbing” and believes they should be investigated. He said he would not now call for Cuomo’s resignation but said that, along with recent calls to investigate Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, he is concerned about the governor’s “inappropriate actions toward people.”
State Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, concurred.
“Allegations of sexual harassment must be taken very seriously,” Stec wrote in a text. “As we have learned in the nursing home coverup scandal, we can’t count on this administration to be forthcoming with facts. This warrants an investigation in my opinion.”
Democrats, too, are concerned.
“Allegations of sexual harassment should be taken seriously wherever they occur,” Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, wrote in an email. “If the allegations against the governor come to be proven true he should, and will, be held under the same standards that anybody would in the work place.”
“I have read the reports,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, wrote in a statement. “These are serious allegations. Harassment in the workplace of any kind should not be tolerated.”
Cuomo and his press team denied Boylan’s claims.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” Cuomo Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard wrote in an email Wednesday.
“Look, I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has,” Cuomo told reporters in December. “But it’s just not true.”
Boylan provided screenshots of texts and emails supporting some of the verbal harassment and showing she has told family and friends about her concerns for years.
Stefanik has called for Cuomo’s resignation several times in the last year, recently for his alleged cover-up of COVID-19-related deaths at nursing homes. Cuomo, meanwhile, has called Stefanik and other Republican New York Congress members “complicit” and “part of the mob” for not condemning Trump after he whipped up a crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly Jan. 6 riot as Congress was confirming election results. Cuomo’s communications staff has been harsher with Stefanik, calling her a “QAnon Trump puppet” and member of the “treason caucus.”
This feud has sparked a poll and some published articles speculating she might run against him for governor, a question to which she has not responded.
But Stefanik said her criticism of Cuomo over the sexual harassment accusation is not about politics.
“I have served in Congress during the height of the #MeToo movement leading to resignations and retirements of my colleagues,” Stefanik wrote in a statement. “Sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace is not a political issue, it is about right and wrong.”
Trump has had numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment brought against him, as well as an accusation of rape. Trump has denied these accusations. Stefanik did not respond to a question asking, since she did not call for Trump’s resignation, if that means she was complicit in allowing an accused sexual predator to run the United States government.
Stefanik occasionally spoke out against Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign and early days of his presidency, saying comments he made in a leaked “Access Hollywood” tape from 2005 were “inappropriate” and “offensive,” adding, “I hope his apology is sincere.”
Trump, not realizing a mic was recording, told show host Billy Bush he used his fame to made advances on women, including grabbing their genitalia.
Stefanik’s Communications Director Karoline Leavitt said Stefanik addresses sexual harassment by members of her own party, too.
“During the height of #MeToo, Congresswoman Stefanik helped pass bipartisan reforms to combat sexual assault on Capitol Hill and introduced bipartisan legislation to protect victims of sexual assault,” Leavitt wrote.
In 2018 Stefanik said allegations of sexual assault brought against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh were “politicizing personal attacks” and said the nation had “weaponized the politics of personal destruction.” Kavanaugh, who had been nominated by Trump, was eventually confirmed by the Senate.
Asked about this in relation to the Cuomo accusation, Leavitt called the accusations against Kavanaugh “baseless” and said Stefanik has not changed her opinion on them. Leavitt said accusations of Cuomo’s harassment and abuse are different because he is a sitting governor, and because text messages and government emails show Boylan told people about the harassment at the time.
Stefanik and her staff did not respond to a question asking if treating sexual harassment as a political issue furthers the harm it causes.
Leavitt said “fair and honest journalism” would be to ask every elected Democrat about their previous statements on sexual harassment and assault. She said Democrats U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul are not holding Cuomo to the “same standard” as others.
“The question is: Why are Senators Gillibrand and Schumer silent?” Leavitt wrote in an email.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday these three had not released statements on the accusations.
Leavitt did point out that state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and Speaker Heastie — both Democrats — called for independent investigations into Cuomo’s conduct.
Leavitt said Cuomo has filled the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics with “his political allies who have buried sexual harassment and abuse claims.”
“JCOPE has no credibility whatsoever,” Leavitt wrote.
Tedra Cobb, a Democrat from Canton who ran against Stefanik in 2018 and 2020, pointed out in a tweet that Stefanik refused to return $8,400 that disgraced casino mogul Steve Wynn, who was accused of sexual assault, donated to her 2020 reelection campaign.
“We must listen to survivors, but Elise is no ally,” Cobb wrote.
Stefanik said she was “one of the first and one of the only” New York elected officials to call for an investigation into Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations in 2020.
“It is an inexcusable disgrace that almost every other elected official in New York State quietly brushed this serious and credible allegation under the rug,” Stefanik wrote in a statement. “Sadly, much of the media in the state either ignored this matter or chose to report the sexist character and professional smears of Ms. Boylan by Governor Cuomo’s taxpayer-funded staff.”
Stefanik’s statement included past comments from Cuomo supporting investigations into people accused of sexual harassment and praising the women who came forward.
“The people of New York deserve a Governor who lives up to his own public statements on sexual harassment,” Stefanik wrote in December.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article said Cuomo had called upon Stefanik to resign. Stefanik has claimed he did, but so far the Enterprise and other news reporters have not found any statement in which he did so. The Enterprise regrets the error.)