It was a whirlwind week, we know. So we’ve compiled some of the standout moments—from the report’s release to the Friday rebuttal from Cuomo’s attorneys, which left us with lots of questions—to help keep you apprised of the key details.
A year ago, it seemed unlikely that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo would not finish out his third term. At the time, his handling of the COVID-19 crisis—marked by colorful daily briefings—won him diehard fans and (grudging) support even from some of his critics.
But things are changing very, very quickly: Last week, State Attorney General Letitia James announced the results of her office’s months-long, independent investigation of sexual harassment claims against the governor, coming to the unsparing conclusion that “Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of them young women,” she said last Tuesday, including a state trooper assigned to his protective detail, a doctor employed by the state who gave the governor a COVID-19 test, and numerous staffers.
READ MORE: ‘A Culture of Fear and Flirtation’: Andrew Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women, AG Investigation Finds
The governor responded swiftly, vehemently denying the claims yet again in a taped rebuttal. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made any inappropriate sexual advances,” he said, claiming some of the allegations were politically prompted.
It would not be the last time Cuomo (or his team) shot back at the investigators: Late Friday afternoon, attorneys for the governor and his executive chamber held a virtual press briefing, again denying the claims and criticizing the A.G.’s rollout of the report, which they said was not released to them to review before it was made public. If it were, the lawyers added, they might have been able to challenge a number of perceived errors, something they said was “intentional.”
“I know the difference between putting a case together against a target versus doing an independent fact-finding with an open mind,” said Rita Glavin, the governor’s personal attorney. “And there has been no independent fact-finding in this case.”
It was a whirlwind week, we know. So we’ve compiled some of the most standout moments—from the report’s release to Friday’s rebuttal, which left us with lots of questions—to help keep you apprised of the key details.
- Per the report, after Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to the governor, came forward to report some of his alleged conduct, the Governor’s senior staff put an “informal protocol” in place “to try to protect the Governor from being alone with young women on the Executive Chamber staff.”
Cuomo’s senior staff also failed to report Bennett’s complaints to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER), nor did they conduct an investigation into them, despite the fact that both the governor’s chief of staff and special counsel at the time, Jill DesRosiers and Judy Mogul, found Bennett “to be credible,” the AG report says.
“Ms. DesRosiers and Ms. Mogul also found Ms. Bennett’s June 2020 allegations—including that the Governor seemed to be ‘grooming’ her, asked her if she had been with an older man, asked about age differences in partners, asked her to find him a girlfriend, said that he would be fine with someone as young as 22, told her to get her tattoo on her butt where it could not be seen, said he was lonely and wanted to be touched, said he wanted to ride his motorcycle into the mountains with a woman, and called her Daisy Duke—to be sufficiently serious to implement an informal protocol to try to protect the Governor from being alone with young women on the Executive Chamber staff.”
- Cuomo apparently harassed a state trooper assigned to his protective detail, the investigators found.
While we had already heard sexual harassment accusations from former gubernatorial staffers, including Bennett and Lindsey Boylan, it was not until the report published on Tuesday that we learned the governor is also accused of sexually harassing a state trooper who worked on his protective detail.
In interviews with the investigating team, the trooper says the governor sexually harassed her “on a number of occasions,” including by “running his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip, while she held a door open for him at an event,” “kissing her (and only her) on the cheek in front of another Trooper and asking to kiss her on another occasion” and repeatedly “making sexually suggestive and gender-based comments.”
Others claiming harassment include a doctor employed by the state and an executive assistant who apparently filed a police report after the governor allegedly groped her in the executive mansion. The investigators, in footnotes, also included a recording of the Governor singing the parts of the song “Do You Love Me?” to Bennett.
Listen to that here: https://vimeo.com/582257128/adee5e6783
- On Friday, Cuomo’s lawyer specifically criticized the accounts of two of the 11 women who alleged sexual harassment or assault in the report, including Boylan and a previously unnamed executive assistant who said the governor groped her breast under her shirt, ,leaving us with the question: What about the other nine?
Responding to a reporter’s question on Friday, the governor wants to address the trooper’s allegation himself and will do so “soon.” The attorneys did not directly address the other nine allegations in Friday’s briefing.
- The governor’s staff, likely illegally, retaliated against Boylan after she came forward alleging sexual harassment, conduct that may implicate a number of Cuomo staffers.
From the report: “On December 13, 2020, just hours after Ms. Boylan tweeted that the Governor had sexually harassed her, [Governor’s spokesperson Rich] Azzopardi sent [Boylan’s confidential personnel files] to David Caruso of the Associated Press, Dana Rubinstein of the New York Times, and Bernadette Hogan of the New York Post, along with a statement from Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard that “[t]here is simply no truth to these claims.”
Staff members in the executive chamber may also have directed others to secretly record calls with Boylan and others, in order to find out what was being said about Cuomo.
According to the report, another accuser dubbed “Kaitlin” said she also received a phone call from a former Cuomo staffer which she suspected was “a fishing expedition on behalf of the Executive Chamber.”
“Kaitlin’s instinct was correct,” the AG’s report reads “The former staff member testified that she called Kaitlin—and surreptitiously recorded the call—at the insistence of [senior aide Melissa] DeRosa, who ‘was looking for information about if [Kaitlin] was working with Lindsey [Boylan] or if she had allegations against the Governor.”
DeRosa resigned from her post on Sunday. The State Assembly, which launched an impeachment investigation into the accusations against Cuomo this spring, is expected to make an announcement about that probe Monday morning.