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Cuomo stands in a long line of politicians accused of mistreating women

What’s the difference between those who stay in power and those who don’t? Party affiliation, for one thing: In recent years, Democratic leaders have generally abandoned those in the party who have been accused of assault or harassment, usually (but not always) leading them to step down and be replaced by another Democrat.

By: New York Times |
Updated: August 9, 2021 11:48:09 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York speaks during a press conference in New York, July 14, 2021. (Johnny Milano/The New York Times)

Written by Jennifer Medina

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is the latest in a long series of political figures who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault. Nearly all have faced calls for their resignation, and some have heeded them while others have steadfastly refused to step down.

What’s the difference between those who stay in power and those who don’t? Party affiliation, for one thing: In recent years, Democratic leaders have generally abandoned those in the party who have been accused of assault or harassment, usually (but not always) leading them to step down and be replaced by another Democrat. Republicans, who have not always faced the same pressure from party leaders, have more typically dug in their heels and stayed put.

That makes Cuomo’s case all the more unusual: He has made clear he has no plans to willingly leave office. But not since President Bill Clinton has there been such an expansive — and public — investigation of a high-profile politician into allegations of sexual misconduct.

“All this discussion isn’t based merely on press reports, but on a careful and really extensive investigation and legal analysis,” said Emily Martin, a vice president at the National Women’s Law Center. “Some politicians have exploited that sort of inherent uncertainty. They have learned the lesson that if you don’t step down, nobody is going to make you.”

This time could be different. If Cuomo does not resign, he could face impeachment proceedings from the state Legislature.

The list of political figures who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault is far too long for one article, but here is a look at some of the most recent high-profile allegations in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Donald Trump

More than two dozen women have publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault. Just weeks before the 2016 election, a recording from 2005 surfaced of Trump boasting in vulgar terms about kissing and groping women without their consent.

Trump acknowledged his remarks at the time, saying in a video: “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he also dismissed the conversation as “locker room talk” and later baselessly questioned the authenticity of the recording.

Despite widespread outrage from Democrats and women’s groups, Trump was not punished for his remarks at the ballot box — more white female voters chose him over Hillary Clinton.

Later, in 2019, the writer E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a department store in New York City. He denied the allegation, and she sued him for defamation, a case in which he carried out the highly unusual legal move of bringing in the Justice Department to defend him.

Al Franken

In 2017, Leeann Tweeden, a comedian and sports broadcaster, accused Franken, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, of forcibly kissing her during a rehearsal and of groping her for a photo while she slept during a 2006 comedy tour through the Middle East. Franken apologized, but said he had a different memory of the time.

“I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter,” he wrote in a statement. “There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate.”

Several weeks later, amid calls for his resignation, Franken stepped down.

Roy Moore

In late 2017, four women, and then a fifth, said that Roy S. Moore, at the time a Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, had made sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman accused Moore of forcing her into a sexual encounter when she was 14, and multiple women accused him of sexual assault.

Several Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader at the time, urged Moore to drop out of the race, but he denied all allegations and said they were part of a conspiracy to keep him out of office. Trump endorsed Moore about a week before the election, which he lost to Doug Jones, who became the first Democrat since 1992 to win an Alabama Senate seat.

Brett Kavanaugh

Soon after Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, three women accused him of sexual assault or misconduct.

One of the women, Christine Blasey Ford, said that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when she was about 15 at a party in suburban Maryland in the early 1980s. During hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Blasey Ford said she had feared Kavanaugh would rape and accidentally kill her during the alleged assault.

Kavanaugh “unequivocally and categorically” denied the allegation and was confirmed to the court by one of the slimmest margins in American history.

Eric Schneiderman

Eric T. Schneiderman, then the New York state attorney general, resigned in 2018 just hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them. Two of the women who spoke to the magazine said they had been choked and hit repeatedly by Schneiderman, a Democrat. Although he denied the allegations, several leaders in the party — including Cuomo — urged him to step down.

“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general,” Cuomo said at the time.

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