• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Cuomo Confronts Another Accuser

The astonishing collapse of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, the same man from whom every public official was urged to take his or her “lessons in leadership”, and from whom no self-respecting citizen was allowed to withhold his perfervid applause, continues apace.


Is it even conceivable, you might ask, for Cuomo’s reputation to be tarnished beyond its currently soiled state? Is it even possible, you’ll doubtless wonder, for a man undeserving of anything higher than contempt to have aroused in us even deeper feelings of scorn? The answer, in a word, is yes.


In a recent Medium post, a cringe-inducing missive by which a thousand calls for the governor’s immediate censure, if not his outright removal, have been launched, Lindsey Boylan—a former deputy secretary for economic development in his administration from 2015 till 2018—accused her old boss of sexual harassment. She documented, in graphic detail, the lascivious behavior, the toxic aggression, and the misogynistic bullying with which he comported himself, and under which she, his subordinate, suffered.


Seldom a week passes without at least one ugly revelation, one shocking and sordid story, by which Cuomo’s misbehavior isn’t exposed. It’s an unfortunate reality with which, not unlike the pandemic itself, we’ve grown uncomfortably to live. Indeed, much like this very show to which you settle down and listen, from which I hope you derive some small but lasting pleasure, Cuomo’s scandals have become—to borrow from obscurity one of her finest words—hebdomadal. Once a week, every week, with the predictability of the rising sun, a new allegation illuminates just how odious a creature Cuomo is.


If only briefly, we’ll revisit the misdeeds of which, hitherto, he’s been accused.


Attorney General Letitia James issued a report that revealed Governor Cuomo undercounted Nursing Home deaths in his state by over fifty percent. The governor promptly contested the figure at which her meticulous study arrived. The following week, the contents of a damning zoom call were released, during which his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, confessed that the administration concealed the genuine number of deaths. This act of omission was performed for fear of arousing President Trump’s attention (and, more significantly, the curiosity of his Department of Justice). Days later, state congressman Ron Kim disclosed the expletive-ridden nature of his recent conversation with Cuomo, by whom he was personally threatened, and his charming young family, unnecessarily shaken.


Now, this.


Boylan divulged in her post that Governor Cuomo “Created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying was so pervasive that it was not only condoned, but expected”. It was the very water in which she and those like her swam. She went on to explain that, “He used intimidation to silence his critics...and if you dared to speak up, you would face the consequences”. Such is the world of New York politics: it always comes with a warning.


It appears to be the case that now, freshly emboldened, Boylan’s either indifferent to the impending harsh consequences by which so explosive an allegation will be attended, or she recognizes in Cuomo a lion defanged by his own supporters. Perhaps, now, she sees a man incapable of making good on what was, from at least 2015 until today, a very real and bone-chilling threat.


Exactly what were the gross and unseemly characteristics by which this strange culture was defined?


Boylan lists among its more nauseating features the fact that Cuomo would ask her (and the other nubile aides by whom he was surrounded) to join him in games of strip poker. Apparently, this happened on a plane ride funded, naturally, by the taxpayer’s coin. Once grounded, he would invite her, to the exclusion of all others, to his office in Albany or Manhattan. He would then retrieve from his shelf a cigar box gifted to him by none other than Bill Clinton, the notoriously prurient president from whom the governor, equally virile, hoped to take an example. He would use the prop to raise the topic of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a means by which he might deftly gauge Boylan’s openness to infidelity, and her willingness to indulge a workplace tryst.


In time, words led to actions, physical displays of affection for which Boylan was unprepared. According to her story, Cuomo touched her repeatedly in inappropriate ways. Eventually, he dared, as is the wont of such men, to kiss her on the lips. He did so without having first secured that most precious and elusive of all things—her consent. As expected, she never gave it, yet Cuomo was undismayed. He kissed her regardless of her assent.


Of course, every story of this nature is incomplete if read from only one side. We await Governor Cuomo’s response to Boylan’s damning allegations of harassment and abuse. It’s for this reason that a final verdict on the beleaguered Governor must be suspended.


It must be said, though, that Cuomo’s kinship to scruples, and his devotion to candor, rank quite lowly among his finer attributes. They certainly don’t rush to his defense in a situation such as this.


That’s not to say, of course, that Boylan must be believed, only that Cuomo’s credibility is—to put it mildly—wanting. He’s already concealed the deaths of thousands of citizens of whose fate he was the author; he’s already shirked responsibility for his own in-state failures, pointing instead to the blunders of the federal government; he’s already obstructed investigations into his maladroit handling of this pandemic; and he’s shown himself, completely shamelessly, eager to accept an award and a book deal for his fabricated achievements.


Perhaps, on this single matter, he’s to be believed. If history is to be our guide, however, we might be otherwise convinced.


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