Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said it would be “antidemocratic” for him to resign in the face of sexual harassment claims against him, but this comes more than two years after he said then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) should step down over horrifying abuse allegations.
“There are some legislators who suggest that I resign because of accusations that are made against me,” he said Sunday in a conference call with reporters. “I was elected by the people of the state. I wasn’t elected by politicians. I’m not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually antidemocratic, and we’ve always done the exact opposite. The system is based on due process and the credibility of the allegation.”
He noted that current state Attorney General Leticia James (D) was still investigating claims that some of his former aides made against him.
Former aide Lindsey Boylan had said that Cuomo kissed her without permission, suggested they play strip poker, and had a crush on her. Former aide Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times that the governor groomed her for a possible sexual relationship, asked inappropriate questions about her love life, and when she was considering a tattoo, he suggested she get it in an certain intimidate area so no one would see it if she wore a dress. Former aide Ann Liss recently stepped forward with The Wall Street Journal, saying the governor engaged in “patronizing” behavior that diminished her position: asking if she had a boyfriend, placing her hand on her back during a reception, and kissing her on the hand.
Karen Hinton told The Washington Post that Cuomo, then head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, forced her into an “intimate” hug in his hotel room after an event in 2000.
“Another woman, Anna Ruch, told The New York Times that Cuomo, who she had never met before a wedding reception in September 2019, put his hands on her cheeks, and asked if he could kiss her. She pulled away. A photograph, in which Ruch appears distressed while Cuomo is holding her face, was published.
In the wake of Boylan’s and Bennett’s stories, the governor has denied wrongdoing, including inappropriate touching, though he said “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.” He has called Hinton a “longtime political adversary.”
“So no, there’s no way I resign,” Cuomo said on Sunday. “Let’s do the attorney general investigation.”
That’s a 180 from his attitude toward Schneiderman in 2018. The New Yorker published a report, in which four women said the AG inflicted physical and psychological abuse. Allegations from two in particular–Michelle Manning Barish and Tayna Selvaratnam–included hitting them, threatening to kill them, showing controlling behavior, and pressuring them to drink. Schneiderman denied assaulting anybody, but said he engaged in consensual role-play and other sex acts “in the privacy of intimate relationships.” The women dismissed that claim. They maintained it was abuse.
The New Yorker published their article on May 7, 2018. Schneiderman stepped down the next day, continuing to assert his innocence. Cuomo called for his resignation in the meantime.
“The New Yorker has published an article on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which reports multiple women making serious allegations of assault. No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” the governor said in a May 7 statement. “I will be asking an appropriate New York District Attorney to commence an immediate investigation, and proceed as the facts merit. My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General, and for the good of the office, he should resign.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who Cuomo appointed as a special prosecutor, announced in November 2018 she would not charge Schneiderman, though she said she believed the women. She cited “legal impediments, including statutes of limitations,” in declining to prosecute.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
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