UPDATE (08/10/2021 1:00 p.m. E.T.): Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that in light of the accusations against him, he would be resigning from office, effective in two weeks.
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a bombshell report Tuesday detailing multiple instances of sexual harassment and nonconsensual touching by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
According to James, the harassment was prolific and egregious: 11 women, nine of whom are current or former state employees, said the governor touched their bodies under their shirts, kissed them on the lips or made sexual comments — like asking his female aide to play “strip poker” — and retaliated against one of them when they complained. One state trooper said he ran his finger from her neck down the back of her spine in an elevator, whispering “Hey, you,” and asked her for help finding him a girlfriend who “can handle pain.”
The report also noted that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the governor’s brother, was part of a small team of advisers who helped him respond to the allegations. The journalist Cuomo seems to have gone so far as to draft a statement for his powerful brother in February of this year.
“Sometimes I am playful and make jokes,” the statement says. “You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. My only desire is to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
The governor Cuomo appeared to take some of those tips, trying to spin the report on camera Tuesday alongside a bizarre montage of him kissing and touching people. He denied the allegations, refused to admit to any misconduct and said he was just being “playful,” which somehow got misinterpreted as flirtation.
"I do on occasion say, 'Ciao, bella,'" the governor said. "I do banter with people. I do tell jokes — some better than others."
According to James, the harassment was prolific and egregious: 11 women said the governor touched their bodies under their shirts, kissed them on the lips or made sexual comments.
"I try to put people at ease. I try to make them smile. I try to connect with them," he continued. "I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that frankly I haven’t fully appreciated."
Of course, according to the employees in James’ report, the governor's self-described “banter” neither made them smile nor put them at ease. The women he harassed described his behavior as “deeply humiliating, uncomfortable, offensive” and “inappropriate.” The report concluded that he created a “hostile work environment” that was “rife with fear and intimidation” and that he clearly violated federal and state law.
Given this information, Andrew Cuomo should resign immediately or be impeached.
His brother, too, should resign from covering politics or be fired. It’s extremely inappropriate and unethical for a journalist to advise and craft the statements of a politician, regardless of family relation.
Of course, according to the employees in James’ report, the governor's self-described “banter” neither made them smile nor put them at ease.
Chris Cuomo has interviewed his brother on CNN multiple times about the elder Cuomo’s coronavirus response, as scores of New Yorkers were dying in a pandemic; Albany is part of his beat. In one interview, Chris Cuomo told Andrew Cuomo he is “the best politician in the country.” The anchor’s attempt at a journalistic compromise was to abstain from interviewing his brother about the sexual harassment scandal. But both men’s careers have benefited greatly from their cheeky, high-profile, softball interviews during a very dark time in the nation’s history. And viewers were largely unaware of the role Chris Cuomo was playing to help his brother behind the scenes.
James’ report provides yet more evidence of Andrew Cuomo’s misconduct. But it’s only one aspect of a political career rife with scandal. The governor should resign — but not just because of his behavior toward employees.
Fair reporting and scrutiny of Andrew Cuomo over the past 18 months could have been a game changer. He was lionized at the beginning of the pandemic for holding frequent and factual news briefings about the virus when then-President Donald Trump was trying to downplay it. He appeared to be such a hero, for a moment, that he accepted a multimillion-dollar book deal about his own leadership in a crisis. The New York Times later reported that Andrew Cuomo’s team had covered up thousands of nursing home deaths to make New York’s death toll look better. (Cuomo said claims of data inaccuracies are a “lie” while admitting “we should have provided more information faster.”) Now, unsurprisingly, he seems to be lying again about his egregious and illegal treatment of women.
New Yorkers deserve better than a lying, harassing, misogynistic creep presiding over the state. And CNN’s viewers deserve better than a news anchor who is working on behalf of a politician he covers and helps to manipulate public opinion of him. Both Cuomo brothers have amassed massive power and influence, while betraying public trust. And both brothers must go.