WASHINGTON – “It’s gonna be a long day, and it’s gonna be a tough day, and it’s gonna be a lousy day, and it’s gonna be a sad day.”
It was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking over a year ago, when he was widely regarded as the chief comforter of the American pandemic – taking responsibility for and saying everything many thought the then President Donald Trump should have said, but was not.
You can easily imagine Cuomo repeating it on Tuesday, when a report from the New York attorney general’s office accused him of being a serial sexual harasser who created a climate of fear in his own office.
The contents of the report, which detailed the allegations of 11 women who said they were groped, offered and otherwise exploited by their boss, and his sordid efforts to silence them and rule through intimidation, made the day long and hard and ugly. and sad . But it was Cuomo’s dazzling attempt to deny everything and pretend he was the real victim that made him uglier. And sadder.
A year ago, Cuomo was something of a Trump of the bizarre world – the paternalistic, outspoken, and righteous tyrant who fueled the imagination of Democrats. Like Trump, he came from Queen’s in New York; like Trump, the brash son of an accomplished operator who followed Dad into the family business and matched or surpassed his profile; like Trump, surrounded in the public eye by his family; and like Trump, he had amassed a long list of enemies.
Unlike Trump, Democrats imagined, Cuomo was exercising his stranglehold on power for the public good. He was notoriously ruthless, as Maureen Dowd wrote in an admiring New York Times profile which went on to say that “cruelty is good, if it is for a purpose” – and the purpose many saw in him. then was, as he put it, “kick ass from the coronavirus.” His daily press conferences, filled with track records and romantic empathy, rivaled for ratings with Trump’s narcissistic and free improvisations. speculated that he could – or should – run for the Democratic presidential candidate and run against Trump.
Now one would think that his political career is about to end.
Women’s group UltraViolet hired a plane on Wednesday to fly over the New York Capitol in Albany, pulling up a banner calling for its revocation. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he should step down. Many Democratic lawmakers in his state have called for his resignation. The governors of four neighboring states issued a statement demanding his resignation.
As with Trump, it turns out that Cuomo’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis was far from ideal. He continues to face inquiries into how his handling of events may have contributed to nursing home deaths and a $ 5 million deal for a book he wrote to celebrate his response to the pandemic.
It also turns out that, like Trump, there is a long list of women who accuse Cuomo of being a predator: a former executive assistant, whose story was detailed in Attorney General Letitia James’ report, says that he touched her breast and butt without invitation and made suggestive comments; a police officer assigned to protect him said his uninvited touching of her stomach had made her feel “completely raped”. The report describes a pattern of harassment and a culture that fed it with fear and intimidation. When one of his accusers went public, James reports, Cuomo’s office obtained his personnel file and distributed unflattering material from it to the media.
And it turns out that like Trump, Cuomo refuses to come down without a fight. He denied the charges, both in a video statement released Tuesday and in an 85-page rebuttal (which included eight pages of photos showing him kissing and hugging, and another 15 pages with photos other public figures kissing).
His denials were as absolute as the claims of the “perfect call” that led to Trump’s first impeachment. “I want you to know directly from me that I have never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said. “It’s just not who I am.” He claimed that her warmth and attention may have been misinterpreted. He suggested that the attorney general’s report was a “biased examination” and that his conclusions were politically motivated. He didn’t use the words “witch hunt”, but it was certainly inference.
For the women who made the sad and terrible allegations, the report might offer some level of validation. Some told James that they initially remained silent because they were convinced that justice would never be served against this vindictive and powerful man. Justice measures beyond the report are now in the hands of prosecutors, who may decide to press charges, or the New York legislature, which may remove Cuomo.
For the general public, especially those who so enthusiastically supported Cuomo a year ago, the issue is less justice than political principles and human decency. Many have long been astonished at how Republicans and Trump supporters continued to support the former president even as details of his behavior became public. Now comes a test of how they react when the guy they considered their own champion gets a vent of his own dirty laundry.
At the moment, it seems few people are sticking with Cuomo. Virtually everyone in a leadership position in his Democratic Party called for his resignation, including the two senators from New York. An instant poll by Marist of 614 New Yorkers on Tuesday showed that 59% of those polled thought he should quit. He doesn’t have a lot of backers at the moment – although, like Trump’s case, Rudy Giuliani seems ready to step in and be that guy (“We used to have trials before convictions Said Giuliani).
Many seasoned observers of New York politics seem to expect Cuomo to try to overcome this – and maybe even run for a fourth term as governor next year. If he does, the New York political calendar promises many more long, hard, ugly and sad days to come.
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