Did Cuomo watch harassment videos?
Two years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court with new sexual harassment prevention laws. Many people remember it well — there were a boatload of forms for workers to sign and videos to watch to educate workers about proper workplace behavior.
Did Cuomo watch the videos he made the rest of us watch? So far, two women who worked for him have come forward alleging sexual harassment by the governor in the workplace, and a third woman told the New York Times about him harassing her at a wedding.
“To Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual assault, we believe you, and we will fight for you,” Cuomo said of the judge’s accuser on Oct. 6, 2018. But Cuomo hasn’t believed or fought for the women accusing him. He quickly denied former aide Lindsey Boylan’s accusations in December, then had his press secretary state last week, “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.” The governor’s office then released schedules they say prove Boylan’s account can’t be true.
Then former aide Charlotte Bennett claimed the governor propositioned her in his office — asking probing questions about the 25-year-old’s love life, telling her he is lonely, and, by the way, did she ever consider sleeping with a guy who is, say, his age? He responded that he “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett” but said he sometimes teases staff members to be “playful.” He said while he thinks these jokes are funny, he now realizes they could have “misinterpreted” that as “unwanted flirtation.”
Women, especially, were quick to reject this lame plea — blaming women for not finding his jokes funny. In light of his own 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York, how could he not have known such conversation is inappropriate for the workplace?
It is telling to see the different partisan reactions to the accusations against Kavanaugh and Cuomo. Republicans universally lined up to support Kavanaugh, but Democrats are mostly taking a wait-and-see attitude with Cuomo. Most support an investigation by the state attorney general — something Cuomo tried to wriggle out of until he realized he couldn’t. Some, such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have said that if the investigation validates the accusations, Cuomo will not be able to govern.
The problem of sexual harassment goes far beyond Cuomo, though. Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou reminded her fellow lawmakers of how disgusting some men in the Capitol acted as recently as 2013, when she first arrived there to work as a legislative aide. She said lawmakers grabbed her buttocks, peered into her office to check her out for a “hot or not” list, and suggested she and her boss were “a hot duo” who should have sex. She said she was afraid to report these things because she knew that kind of nastiness has long been part of the Capitol culture. That’s true. It has been reported over and over for years, but few in power have done anything to stop it. When Assemblyman Vito Lopez was accused of sexually harassing female staff members, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver paid the women off — with tax money, no less — to keep them quiet.
All this should be a lesson in the danger of power. We all know Cuomo has always been ambitious, seeking political power and becoming skilled at using it. Anyone who wants power that badly will be tempted to misuse it — because why would you crave power if not to get what you want?
In the future we should keep this in mind as we choose our government leaders. The ones who want it most may be liabilities.