Behold the old political trick of the walkback. When Lindsey Boylan accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, his office denied all of her allegations. After Charlotte Bennett launched a second public accusation — and brought a few receipts — Cuomo and his team called for an independent investigation … and then tried to choose their own investigator. That worked out as well as one might think, with Cuomo performing the first of his two walk-backs yesterday. Not only did Cuomo concede on appointing the investigator, he also buckled to Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James’ demand for full authority, including subpoena power:
Cuomo retreats. Third statement from his office on this today. pic.twitter.com/8RFrPNUPyL
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 28, 2021
In this case, however, the third time was not the charm. Not too long after conceding full authority to James, Cuomo then issued this lengthy statement, in which he claims a belated epiphany about sexual harassment … kinda. Asking young female staffers about their sexual history and preferences turns out to have been icebreakers for Cuomo, and not intended to prey on his staff.
Think this will work? Naaaah, or at least it shouldn’t:
NEW: In statement, @NYGovCuomo says:
"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.”
Read here: pic.twitter.com/ZIIkPfonqg
— Luis Ferré-Sadurní (@luisferre) February 28, 2021
One question that will have to be answered: which box does a forced kiss on an employee by a powerful governor fall into — “insensitive” or “too personal”? YMMV.
Anyway, it seems very clear that Cuomo and his team now fully expect to have more allegations surface in the coming days and weeks, either through James’ investigation or independently. This statement is intended to pre-empt the shoes that will drop over that time, no matter how many there will be. No more need for denials, which will provoke his progressive allies (“believe all women,” after all) and accelerate his departure rather than delay or defuse it. Instead, all Cuomo has to say now is, Well, I admitted that I was unwittingly insensitive and personal. Old story. Move on.
Even at that, though, the statement manages to end up as a non-apology apology. Note well that Cuomo doesn’t apologize for his harassing behavior, but instead blames his staffers for having “misinterpreted” him, and apologizing only for their feeling bad based on a misinterpretation. Besides, this comes pretty late in the day, since Cuomo initially denied Boylan’s accusations and pushed back on them for the last few days.
So just how bad will this get? Given Cuomo’s multiple direction changes yesterday, it’s safe to say that Cuomo and his team expect it to get pretty bad. Let’s just hope it doesn’t distract too much from the accountability that Cuomo requires for his nursing-home deaths cover-up. That scandal has an actual body count, after all.