On February 28, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo published a statement:

At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended . . . I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.

Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo made his statement after two women, Linsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, accused him of sexual harassment. After his statement, seven more women came forward.

The allegations

Earlier in March, Anna Ruch, a member of the Obama administration and Biden’s presidential campaign, alleged that Cuomo placed his hands on her cheeks and asked if he could kiss her at a wedding reception. Her account is supposedly corroborated by a friend who also attended the wedding, as well as text messages and photographs from the event.

On March 6, Ana Liss, a former aide of Gov. Cuomo, said that he had asked her about her relationship status, touched her lower back at a reception, and once kissed her hand at her desk. Even though she initially thought of these gestures as merely harmless, innocent flirtations, she feels that it diminished her from an educated professional to just some object the governor could ogle.

On the same day, Karen Hinton, also a former aide for Cuomo before he became governor, accused him of sexual harassment. She alleges that in 2000, Cuomo hugged her inappropriately in a California hotel room.

Three days later, on March 9, an anonymous member of Cuomo’s Executive Chamber staff accused him of calling her into his office and fondling her under her dress, allegations which Cuomo has denied.

Then, on March 12, Jessica Bakeman, a member of the press, wrote that Cuomo had touched her inappropriately when posing for a picture at a holiday party in 2014. Two years prior, he also pulled her uncomfortably close to him and playfully took her phone out of her hand when she was recording his answers to questions at a press briefing. There was a lot of public humiliation in his treatment of Bakeman, and she worried about whether to “endure his abuse silently or speak up and risk [her] career.”

Nearly a week later, on March 18, Valerie Bauman, a reporter for Bloomberg, tweeted that there was a period of “rampant sexism and sexual harassment” when Cuomo was New York Attorney General. She also alleged that he made her uncomfortable with unwanted flirting.

The next day, Alyssa McGrath shared her story. She is the first current employee to publicly come forward about their experience with Cuomo. She claimed that Cuomo frequently commented about the appearances of female aides and that the anonymous aide who alleged that Cuomo sexually assaulted her described the encounter in detail to McGrath, even though Cuomo allegedly told McGrath not to talk with the anonymous aide.

What’s next?

Of course, right now these allegations are just that—allegations. We will have to wait and see if any more allegations come out. New York Attorney General Letitia James will oversee an independent investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment. James is the first African American and the first woman elected to the position of New York Attorney General, and she has served many years as New York City Public Advocate. She has already gone after Governor Cuomo for the state’s undercounting of nursing home COVID-19 deaths, and she has stated that the inquiry, which she contracted to two private attorneys, will include all victims’ accounts.

Ultimately, we should strive to listen to the victims of Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment, but we should also keep in mind that a very qualified team is looking into the accusations through an independent, legal lens.

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