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NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office denies sexual harassment claims by former staffer

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office denies sexual harassment claims by former staffer

Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a press briefing on COVID-19 in Albany, New York, on February 10, 2021. | Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is disputing the claims of a former staffer who said that the governor sexually harassed her and possibly others.

Former staff member Lindsay Boylan posted an essay on Medium Wednesday outlining allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo.

These allegations include a reported plane trip in October 2017 in which she claims Cuomo sat very close to her and made a crude remark toward her. She also claimed there was another instance in which he kissed her on the lips.

“Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” wrote Boylan.

“His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”

In a statement from Cuomo Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard released Wednesday, the governor disputed Boylan’s claim about the plane trip. The statement reiterated that “Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false."

“In Ms. Boylan's latest blog post, she opens up with a story about a plane trip in October 2017 … [however,] there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper,” noted the statement.

The statement did not specifically address other accusations by Boylan, including the claim that Cuomo would “go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs” or that he once gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips.

Cuomo firmly denied Boylan's allegations in a press conference in December. 

“There is a part of me that will never forgive myself for being a victim for so long, for trying to ignore behavior that I knew was wrong. The Governor exploited my weaknesses, my desire to do good work and to be respected,” wrote Boylan.

“It was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was.”

Boylan also claimed that two women reached out to her “with their own experiences” since she first posted her allegations to Twitter last December.

“One described how she lived in constant fear, scared of what would happen to her if she rejected the Governor’s advances,” she continued.

“The other said she was instructed by the Governor to warn staff members who upset him that their jobs could be at risk. Both told me they are too afraid to speak out.”

The Boylan essay comes as some have called on Cuomo to resign due to both the allegations of harassment and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Governor Cuomo has earned his title as Worst Governor in America, and now every New Yorker knows that he is a criminal sexual predator,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a statement. “On December 14th, I was one of the first and one of the only elected officials in New York State to call for an investigation into Governor Cuomo's sexual harassment of Ms. Boylan. It is an inexcusable disgrace that almost every other elected official in New York State quietly brushed this serious and credible allegation under the rug.”

Stefanik said that “much of the media in the state either ignored this matter or chose to report the sexist character and professional smears of Ms. Boylan by Governor Cuomo's taxpayer-funded staff.”

“I have served in Congress during the height of the #MeToo movement leading to resignations and retirements of my colleagues,” Stefanik added. “Sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace is not a political issue, it is about right and wrong. Governor Cuomo must immediately resign. And any elected official who does not immediately call for his resignation is complicit in allowing a sexual predator to continue leading the great state of New York."

Karen Hinton, a former press secretary for Cuomo when he served as Secretary for Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, wrote in an op-ed Wednesday that Cuomo is a "bully" who exercises "total control" and made disparaging remarks about her. 

"[Cuomo had] given me a job in 1995 and then worked to undermine me in it. Day to day, he made me feel as if I were no good at my job and thus totally dependent on him to keep it. In Cuomo's world—he would never admit this even to himself—working for him is like a 1950s version of marriage," Hinton wrote.

"He always, always, always comes first. Everyone and everything else—your actual spouse, your children, your own career goals—is secondary. Your focus 24 hours a day is on him."

Cuomo came under fire by critics last year after the controversial decision to place COVID-19 positive individuals in nursing homes, possibly resulting in many deaths among the elderly.

Additionally, the New York Times reported earlier this month that several state health officials resigned amid disagreements with Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic and vaccine rollout. According to the newspaper, Cuomo urged health officials to match their health guidelines with his announcements. 

This month, Cuomo’s top aide apologized to Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state's numbers on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, alleging the numbers were withheld in fear that they would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors during the Trump administration. 

The revelation drew pushback from Democratic lawmakers, with one calling Cuomo’s actions a “betrayal of trust.” 

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