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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Explained: The sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo is under mounting pressure to resign as several women have accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the past few weeks.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 16, 2021 8:21:26 am
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking at a vaccination site in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool, File)

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo is under mounting pressure to resign as several women have accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the past few weeks.

The Cuomo administration is also facing scrutiny for fudging the number of COVID-19 related deaths at nursing homes in New York during the first half of 2020. On March 11, the State Assembly announced that it would launch an impeachment inquiry against him.

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So what is happening?

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for an outside investigation into the various claims made against Cuomo, while Letitia James, who is New York’s attorney general, has announced that two outside lawyers will lead the investigation.

New York House Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman released a statement Friday calling for Cuomo’s resignation. “After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature & public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday.

Recently, former Albany statehouse reporter Jessica Bakeman has alleged that in the three years that she covered his administration, “…Cuomo never let me forget I was a woman.”

Bakeman wrote a first person account describing some instances, which was published by New York Magazine on Friday. In this account she said, “I never thought the governor wanted to have sex with me. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power. He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak…”.

She added, “He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.” Bakeman also mentioned that while men were not spared from Cuomo’s “trademark bullying and demeaning behaviour”, the way in which he treated women was different.

Cuomo has so far denied all allegations and has refused to resign. He has, however, apologised for acting in a way that made some women feel uncomfortable but has maintained that his behaviour was unintentional.

When did the charges against Cuomo start emerging?

One of the first allegations against Cuomo was brought forward by Lindsey Boylan, a former advisor to the governor, in December last year. In a Twitter thread, Boylan said, “Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched. I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.”

“I’m angry to be put in this situation at all. That because I am a woman, I can work hard my whole life to better myself and help others and yet still fall victim as countless women over generations have. Mostly silently. I hate that some men, like @NYGovCuomo abuse their power,” she added.

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Boylan also published a blog post on Medium in February where she has given an account of her experience working with Cuomo. “While enjoying a weekend with my husband and six-year-old daughter, I spontaneously decided to share a small part of the truth I had hidden for so long in shame and never planned to disclose. The night before, a former Cuomo staffer confided to me that she, too, had been the subject of the Governor’s workplace harassment,” Boylan said in the post adding that she decided to share her account in December 2020 through Twitter because she was set off by Cuomo being selected as a potential candidate for the US Attorney General, the highest law enforcement official in the country.

A few days after Boylan, Charlotte Bennett, who was also a former aide of the governor came forward with allegations that Cuomo asked her about her sex life and if she had ever had sex with older men. Bennett told The New York Times that during one instance when she was alone with Cuomo at his office, “he asked whether she thought age mattered in romantic relationships.” While Bennett reported the incident to Cuomo’s chief of staff, she was transferred to a different job and she left Cuomo’s administration in November last year.

After Bennett, papers including The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal published accounts of other women who have made similar allegations against Cuomo.

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