Like Ed said earlier, right now we’re at that delicate early stage of a #MeToo scandal where everyone’s sure that more accusers will come forward but no one’s sure how bad the allegations will be. At the moment Cuomo stands accused by Lindsey Boylan of one unwanted kiss on the lips and by Boylan and Charlotte Bennett of inappropriate chitchat. If, say, three more women come forward and say, “He asked about our love lives but never touched us,” does that make him unelectable in New York? I’m skeptical.
But if they come forward and say, “He grabbed us,” maybe it does. He could still hang on and win, but the pressure on other pols from his party to come down hard on him will go way up. The more the accusations move from verbal to physical, the more the question will be asked, “If Al Franken had to resign from the Senate, why doesn’t Cuomo have to resign as governor?”
Which explains why top Dems this morning are hedging their bets, making clear that they’re taking this seriously but not so seriously that they’re ready to call on him to step down. They haven’t turned their backs on him but they’ve made a quarter turn; whether they turn back towards him or fully away depends on what reporters have cooking by way of new accusations.
The second-most powerful Democrat in the country believes that Boylan and Bennett are “credible”:
“The women who have come forward with serious and credible charges against Governor Cuomo deserve to be heard and to be treated with dignity,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The independent investigation must have due process and respect for everyone involved.”
The second-most famous Democrat in the House — and someone who’s technically in a position to primary Cuomo next year — also wants everyone to know that she’s taking this seriously, up to and including the possibility of impeachment:
New York Congresswoman @AOC reacts to the latest claims made against NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. See why she tells @MehdiRHasan "the full facts of the situation" need to come out: pic.twitter.com/mmpKSsQHdT
— The Mehdi Hasan Show (@MehdiHasanShow) March 1, 2021
The second-most powerful Democrat in New York is also piling on, not just about the harassment allegations but about the more substantive scandal in which Cuomo’s embroiled, his horrendous policy on nursing homes at the start of the pandemic. Follow the money on that one, urges Bill de Blasio:
Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to hit Gov. Cuomo on nursing homes on Hot 97.
The mayor asks: "Did campaign contributions from the nursing home industry have anything to do with this?" Is that why the governor was "so lax, so hands off?"
— Emma G. Fitzsimmons (@emmagf) March 1, 2021
Most interesting of all is Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the charge to pressure Franken into resigning after he was accused by numerous women of inappropriate kisses and ass-grabbing. Gillibrand was planning a presidential run at the time and thought that distinguishing herself as a staunch #MeToo advocate would lead her to stand out in the primaries, possibly consolidating the support of disappointed Hillary voters still dreaming of the first woman president. In reality, Franken’s progressive fans never forgave Gillibrand for not waiting for an ethics inquiry to determine whether he’d done anything wrong before turning up the heat on him. Go figure that she’s now more circumspect about pushing out a Democratic pol accused of wrongdoing:
In a statement on Sunday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called for full investigative power to be given to James.
“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning,” Gillibrand said Sunday. “As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent and thorough investigation with subpoena power.”
Serious question: What will do more political damage to Cuomo in deeply Democratic New York, being known as a creeper with his women staffers or being known as an incompetent manager of the pandemic who tried to cover up his biggest failing after it killed thousands? It *should* be the latter, but the public has given governors wide leeway on COVID for the past year, recognizing that it’s an unprecedented challenge. And the media myth of Cuomo as some sort of pandemic “anti-Trump,” the sensitive daddy figure who knows the data and cares deeply, may be indestructible after so many months of reinforcement. A #MeToo scandal may be more of a liability in 2021 than a governing fiasco, which Americans have come to expect from their leaders.
But watch this clip from progressive hero John Oliver that aired last night on HBO, focusing not on the sexual harassment allegations but on Cuomo’s nursing-home debacle and his general boorishness. (There’s profanity, in case you’re at work.) New York’s shady bookkeeping on nursing-home deaths has been public knowledge for six months but only now, it seems, are Oliver and his right-thinking colleagues in media finally digging on it. Maybe the #MeToo scandal and the pandemic scandal are symbiotic: Now that the world knows Cuomo’s a bad guy — and now that Trump is off the political scene, making Cuomo’s image less important to Dems — they can start talking about his governing failures too. Better late than never.