Mar 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Cuomo has no safety net amid flurry of sexual harassment accusations

Picture of Andrew Cuomo with a blanket around his shoulders and holding a glass bottle

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the grounds of the Executive Mansion in Albany yesterday. Photo: Angus Mordant/Reuters

An occasional adviser who has known Andrew Cuomo for nearly 40 years tells me that the New York governor — after a career of playing hardball, including over-the-line threats — has "no net of good will" to catch him.

The state of play: After a cascade of harassment accusations, his resignation is being demanded by both of the state's U.S. senators (Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand), almost the whole 29-member congressional delegation, and a majority of Democrats in the state legislature.

Two stories on Friday quoted a chorus of former aides about the toxic workplace he created and condoned — where young women were constant targets of unwanted attention and touching.

In New York Magazine, Rebecca Traister writes: "In speaking with 30 women, ... almost all who worked for him commented on the extreme pressure applied by both the governor and his top female aides to dress well and expensively; some were told explicitly by senior staff that they had to wear heels whenever he was around."

  • "The sheer amount of interpersonal drama, anxiety, and rancor that former Cuomo staffers described was wholly exhausting, like something from 'The Devil Wears Prada.'"
  • "Multiple people told me that they began therapy and antidepressants for the first time in their lives while working for Cuomo."

More than 35 current and former Cuomo employees described his office to the N.Y. Times as "chaotic, unprofessional and toxic, especially for young women."

  • "Twelve young women said they felt pressured to wear makeup, dresses and heels, because, it was rumored, that was what the governor liked."
  • "Several recalled having to cut short vacations or miss their children’s birthday parties for seemingly minor tasks such as transcribing television interviews with local politicians in other states whom Mr. Cuomo feared could someday become political rivals."
Picture of the cover of New York Magazine with a close up of Andrew Cuomo's face
Photo: New York Magazine

Between the lines: I asked someone who was personally threatened by Cuomo how all this could have stayed secret.

  • "It was a very insular world," the source explained. "If you weren't part of it, you didn't have much visibility into it — and if you were in it, you kept its secrets."

Go deeper: How Cuomo investigation, impeachment could play out.

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