The corona crisis made Andrew Cuomo a hero, but his misbehavior towards women has left him in trouble. After a year of unprecedented popularity as a crisis manager, the New York governor has lost all credit over allegations of sexual misconduct. On Tuesday, New York’s state attorney substantiated those allegations with a 165 page report. Complaints from nine civil servants and two other women were investigated and found to be well-founded.
The governor, the report concludes, has broken the law by regularly groping women and making inappropriate comments. There are examples of intrusive hugging, squeezing the buttocks or breasts, and unsolicited kissing a woman he first met.
The report appears to mark the end of the 63-year-old Democrat’s successful political career. He has been told that he must resign from all sides, party members and opponents. So far, Cuomo has simply ignored the pressure and Tuesday, too, his first public response pointed to stubborn resistance. The facts are different and the prosecution is biased, he said in a video message.
In March last year, Cuomo was still the hero of the first corona wave. New York was the hardest hit part of the country, and the governor was fighting the pandemic seemingly tirelessly. His no-nonsense press conferences contrasted with President Trump’s drifting live shows. Columnists and talk show hosts declared their love for him (“I’m Cuomosexual,” Trevor Noah and Ellen DeGeneres joked), then-presidential candidate Joe Biden referred to Cuomo for “lessons in leadership.”
Little of that shine remained at the beginning of this year after two disparate, but both hard to shake, scandals unfolded at lightning speed. It was first announced that Cuomo’s state administration has presented figures for the number of Covid-19 infections in care homes to be lower than they actually were. The state government initially maintained that about 8,500 people had died from the effects of a Covid-19 infection. Disclosure of the numbers blocked Cuomo all the way to the highest court.
In February, in a conference call with Democratic Party leaders, his right-hand man said the actual number was twice as high. She added that this had been deliberately concealed because the government feared that the higher death rates “would be used against us.”
It is perhaps typical of modern political relations that that blatant lie did less harm to Cuomo than his macho behavior.
He was assisted by a staff who – as „a mix of West Wing and The Devil Wears Prada,” as one associate recorded by the prosecutor — supporting the governor through thick and thin. For example, the confidential file of a woman who had publicly addressed Cuomo about his intrusive behavior was sent to journalists.
This report could bring an inglorious end to a political dynasty. As a teenager, Andrew Cuomo volunteered in his father Mario’s campaigns. In 1982 he led his first successful governorship campaign.
Until six months ago, the unpleasant traits of Andrew Cuomo – who was still Secretary of Housing under President Clinton – were often viewed as the unpolished side of the coin, compared to his success. After this latest scandal, the medal seems to have lost its luster.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of August 4, 2021