Kissing, Groping & Retaliation: Key Findings From the Sexual Harassment Report on Andrew Cuomo
© AFP 2021 / BYRON SMITHNEW YORK, NY - JULY 01: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on July 1, 2020 in New York City. The governor expressed alarm at Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci's recent prediction that there could be 100,000 new Covid-19 cases per day and provided a number of updates related to an increase of states where out-of-state visitors will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under renewed fire after an independent probe against the governor concluded that he allegedly made a bevy of unwanted sexual advances on past and current staffers. Cuomo, meanwhile, has rejected the findings and given no indication of resigning amid the fallout that’s been brewing for months.
A damning report released by the New York Attorney General’s Office has laid out numerous alleged instances in which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is said to have sexually harassed nearly a dozen female staffers.
The report, which came after an investigation was ordered in early March, detailed that Cuomo allegedly helped to create a hostile work environment for women working under his governorship, and that in many cases, Cuomo repeatedly stepped over the line.
Allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of Cuomo initially began to surface in late 2020 as past and current aides began to voice their accusations. One of the very first accusers was Lindsey Boylan, who previously detailed that Cuomo had sexually harassed her for years, having gone so far as to kiss her on the lips after a meeting.
Other named accusers include Anna Ruch, Ana Liss, Karen Hinton and Charlotte Bennett, who has stated that Cuomo repeatedly inquired about her sex life and whether she ever considered dating older men.
In spite of the allegations that were described in the 168-page report, Cuomo has continued to maintain that he is innocent. In fact, in a pre-recorded video response and an 85-page rebuttal, Cuomo explained that his up-close-and-personal embraces stemmed from “cultural” and “generational” differences, backing up his stance by sprinkling in images of his contacts with various prominent figures.
While many US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for him to resign from his post, Cuomo has remained immovable, even as state officials talk up potential impeachment procedures against the governor.
The five-month probe effectively determined that the governor used his power to allegedly degrade and harass at least 11 women, and that through the brush over provided by his cabinet and close insiders, Cuomo managed to create an environment that repeatedly looked the other way or silenced claims whenever they began to trickle in.
“This culture of fear, intimidation, and retribution co-existed in the Executive Chamber with one that accepted and normalized everyday flirtations and gender-based comments by the governor,” the report reads.
“A number of our complainants noted how their confluence of fear and flirtation affected how they received and responded to the governor’s conduct and contributed to the overall hostile work environment.”
© REUTERS / MIKE SEGARNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks with the skyline of Manhattan behind him from the One World Trade Center Tower while making an announcement in New York City, New York, U.S., June 15, 2021.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks with the skyline of Manhattan behind him from the One World Trade Center Tower while making an announcement in New York City, New York, U.S., June 15, 2021.
© REUTERS / MIKE SEGAR
The report detailed three additional cases that hadn’t previously been made public, one of which was dubbed “Trooper #1” and described Cuomo as having harassed a state trooper who he wanted to put on his security detail. Actions taken by Cuomo ranged from him running his hand across her back, a finger down her neck while the pair were in an elevator, and an encounter where he questioned why she wasn’t wearing a dress.
In another case, Cuomo allegedly ran two fingers across the chest of a contractor and then moved his hand just below her neck. The third previously unreported allegation involved a staffer with an undisclosed state-affiliated entity whose buttocks Cuomo is said to have grabbed.
The unidentified trooper told investigators that no staffers dared say anything negative about the governor’s behavior for fear of reprisal. “Everybody, for the most part, gets promoted because they’re in the good graces of the governor. So if they stay quiet or give him information, they’ll get promoted, or something good will happen to them,” she underscored.
However, if someone steps out of line, the matter was dealt with promptly by Cuomo’s backers in the Executive Chamber, as proved to be the case when Boylan came forward with her allegations.
The investigation specifically singled out an effort by Cuomo and his team of trusted advisers to disperse confidential personnel information about Boylan with journalists as part of a larger attempt to discredit her allegations.
In fact, in one instance, members of Cuomo’s administration signed a statement that wholly disputed Boylan’s claim that the governor had asked her to play strip poker on a plane ride.
© AP Photo / Eduardo Munoz AlvarezLindsey Boylan, a former state economic development adviser for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, attends a rally and march calling for impeachment of Cuomo at Washington Square park, on Saturday, March. 20, 2021, in New York.
Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development adviser for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, attends a rally and march calling for impeachment of Cuomo at Washington Square park, on Saturday, March. 20, 2021, in New York.
© AP Photo / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
And yet, that was not the only incident that unfolded. In another case, one staffer received “incessant calls and texts” from top aide Melissa DeRosa urging them to reach out to another aide who officials believed would be filing a complaint against Cuomo.
Liss, the third aide to have come forward against Cuomo, told investigators the aides protecting the governor made it clear the “rules were different” when it came to the quarters of Cuomo’s office. “Though it was strange and uncomfortable and technically not permissible in a typical workplace environment, I was in this mindset that it was the twilight zone,” she said.
And then there’s brother Chris, who serves as a prominent CNN anchor and also happened to provide his older sibling with advice on how to “express contrition” after Bennett came forward with her allegations.
The report noted that Chris was “actively consulted” in response to the sexual harassment allegations, a finding that backed past reports that surfaced in May and raised questions about Chris’ own credibility as a journalist.
It’s worth noting that Chris did acknowledge that his participation in the “contrition” issue was a conflict of interest in May, stating at the time that he “can be objective about just about any topic, but not about my family.”
© AP Photo / Evan Agostini/InvisionNew York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appears during a news conference about the COVID-19at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Dec. 3, 2020, left, and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo attends the 12th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Dec. 9, 2018. CNN said Thursday, May 20, 2021 it was “inappropriate” for anchor Chris Cuomo to have been involved in phone calls with the staff of his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, where strategies on how the governor should respond to sexual harassment allegations were allegedly discussed.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appears during a news conference about the COVID-19at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Dec. 3, 2020, left, and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo attends the 12th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Dec. 9, 2018. CNN said Thursday, May 20, 2021 it was “inappropriate” for anchor Chris Cuomo to have been involved in phone calls with the staff of his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, where strategies on how the governor should respond to sexual harassment allegations were allegedly discussed.
© AP Photo / Evan Agostini/Invision
However, in the end, the CNN anchor was not the only person to assist in the Cuomo scandal, not by a long shot.
Investigators concluded that “when faced with allegations of sexual harassment brought against the governor, the inner circle of confidantes brought in to control and direct the response included a number of individuals with no official role in the Executive Chamber.”
That inner circle appears to also include Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Legal Defense Fund head Roberta Kaplan and Tina Tchen, who heads the Time’s Up group, among other individuals.
In total, investigators involved in the bombshell Cuomo report interviewed 179 people - 41 of whom were questioned under oath - and involved the issuance of more than 70 subpoenas. While no criminal probe has yet been launched, at least four district attorneys within New York state have submitted requests to the New York Attorney General’s Office for evidence.