Andrew Cuomo – From 'Feminist Ally' to Sexual Harasser: Rise & Fall of NY Guv
The 63-year-old was repeatedly called 'America's Governor' and a 'Feminist Icon.'
In October 2020, The New Yorker wrote a detailed profile of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The 2,000-word piece hailed Cuomo, calling him the undisputed 'King of New York', praising him for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic that wrecked the city.
The 63-year-old was repeatedly called 'America's Governor' and a 'Feminist Icon', and was at one point even reportedly considered by Joe Biden for heading the US Justice Department.
Then America's ideal politician fell from grace, or rather pretence, in 2021 – when an official inquiry by the New York government corroborated the sexual harassment accusations levelled against him by 11 women earlier in the year.
Cuomo's Political Journey
Hailing from a traditional Democratic nobility, a young Andrew Cuomo ran a successful campaign, helping his father Mario Cuomo become the New York governor in 1982.
He went on to work in the federal government, before becoming the attorney general for the state in 2006. Five years later, Cuomo assumed office as the 56th Governor of New York.
In 2018, as Cuomo was in a re-election battle against the Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, he said nothing cold stop him from his third term unless “God strikes me dead."
The 'Feminist Ally', or So We Thought...
Before sexual harassment allegations started surfacing, Cuomo projected himself as a feminist and an ally.
Ironically, two summers ago, in 2018, Cuomo unflinchingly looked at the camera and said:
"Let's actually change things."
He was signing a bill that approved sweeping new actions against sexual harassment in the state, The New York Times reported.
Cuomo allied himself with torchbearers of feminism, including actor-activists Julianne Moore and Mira Sorvino, and shared the stage with leaders of Times Up. He also repeatedly pointed that men should be held accountable.
Speaking to the NYT, former aide Alexis Grenell said that the governor's reputation was that he was your 'number one feminist friend.'
In March 2018, Slate reported that he sent a fundraising email, which read, 'NY Stands with #MeToo," adding:
"A new campaign to capture the momentum of the #MeToo movement and turn it into action...If you continue to turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, this November your #TimesUp!"
In 2017, he expressed solidarity with women by famously declaring – 'I am a woman seeking to control her body' – as he called out possible restrictions on abortion law under then US President Donald Trump.
And Then the Pretence Gave Way: What the Investigation Revealed
While 11 women have come out as survivors since December 2020, at least eight have said they experienced it after early October 2017, after allegations of sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced and the #MeToo movement kick-started.
Cuomo groped, kissed, or made suggestive remarks at the women, including employees, the state's attorney general Letitia James had said last week, as she announced the findings of the probe into allegations against the Democrat.
“The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments".Letitia James
James said that the investigators had spoken to 179 people, and the probe revealed a 'climate of fear' where Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.
The report uncovered that the governor stood behind a state trooper – one of the survivors – ran his finger from her neck down her spine. He then said, 'Hey you' to her, Reuters reported.
Another survivor, identified as “Executive Assistant #1” in the attorney general’s report, filed a criminal complaint with the Albany County sheriff’s office earlier in August. She told investigators that Cuomo fondled her breasts and also rubbed her backside while she took a selfie with him.
What Next for Cuomo?
Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday, 10 August, days after the findings of an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against the Democrat were announced. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is also a Democrat, will take over and is expected to complete her term till December 2022.
She will now become the first woman to lead the state.
While James' team is still investigating the case, it is not clear whether and how the New York state assembly’s judiciary committee will move forward with their investigation.
The committee had given Cuomo time until 14 August to respond to the allegations laid out in the attorney general’s report.
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