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Amid Gov. Cuomo's resignation, here's why I wish I called out his harassment

Susan Del Percio, a former special advisor to Andrew Cuomo, describes how the disgraced New York governor berated, belittled and sought retribution among his staff regularly.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation on Aug. 10, 2021.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation on Aug. 10, 2021.Office of the Governor of New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday following a searing report from the state’s attorney general, which alleges he sexually harassed almost a dozen women, including employees in his office, and violated state and federal laws.

Gov. Cuomo stated his resignation would take effect in 14 days, whereby Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will replace him – and make history as the first woman to assume the state’s highest office.

This week, Republican strategist Susan Del Percio — a former special advisor to Cuomo from 2014 to 2015 who is now an MSNBC and NBC political analyst — spoke to Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski about what she encountered while working for the disgraced governor.

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“When I went to the governor’s office, I was a little more high-profile, so I was more shielded,” she recalled. “But the abuse, the bullying — everything I saw there — I still accepted it as business as normal. That was so unacceptable because as I read the [state attorney general’s report], while I had never been sexually harassed or witnessed it, I saw what those women were going through.”

Del Percio pointed to a culture of fear and complacency that surrounded the administration. “There are a lot of Democrats in Albany, who work with Gov. Cuomo — elected officials, appointed officials — that all knew this behavior existed, and they didn’t call it out either. I think that’s the most important thing,” she reflected. “That our workplace should be civil and respectful. It’s not just that we get paid equally, it’s that we get treated equally.”

When Brzezinski pressed the former senior aide to expand on what she saw, Del Percio characterized office morale as devastating. “There were some days where my colleagues came out in tears, some of them men. There were other days I was shaken to my core … But I didn’t have to worry about retribution.”

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She referenced the secrecy around employees leaving the administration in an effort to avoid his retaliation. “They were like, if you go somewhere and [the governor] finds out, he’ll quash it. He will sabotage the hire. Not because he wants you to stay, but because he wants the loyalty from his staff,” she said. “The way he’d play staff off of each other, it was berating, belittling, almost as if he was just doing it for sport.”

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and several women speaking out against Gov. Cuomo, Del Percio admitted she could have done more as an established advisor. “I had a voice, and I really should have used it more and exposed the issue,” she said. “That’s what’s so amazing about what these young women have gone through … They were women who were used, exploited, sometimes abused and they had the courage to do it. I think we all need to see that it goes beyond sexual harassment that you should not be bullied, that you should not fear harassment.”