Why have nine women come out and accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment? Why have his former staffers spoken out about his cover-up of nursing-home deaths? The Luv Gov told reporters that he knows why — “people want attention, people are angry, people are jealous.”
It can’t be that they’re telling the truth, Cuomo told reporters late yesterday, because “I didn’t do anything wrong.” That Northam/Fairfax strategy still applies, perhaps in part because there are just so many allegations emerging:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held his first face-to-face meeting with reporters in months Monday, taking questions from journalists outside the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Asked directly about the accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by several current and former state employees and other women, Cuomo said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley asked Cuomo, “You know the truth. So can you tell the people of the State of New York yes or no—did you do the things you were accused of?” He answered, “To put it very simply, no.”
As I wrote yesterday, Cuomo might still be able to ride this out, even to getting re-elected. He’s not offering an inch to his accusers on any front, and apparently hopes his cutthroat reputation will keep allies in line for a little while longer.
However, Cuomo might be forced to play whack-a-mole on a larger board. More issues and potential scandals keep popping up, to the point where it’s tough to keep track of what’s been covered. For instance, did we miss Cuomo reportedly slagging Jews back in 2006? The New York Times Magazine revealed that two weeks ago, and that came up in yesterday’s presser:
The transformation had its limits. Some who worked on that campaign detected an essential shallowness that could lurch privately into conspicuous indecency. Another aide said that Cuomo once accused him of failing to head off aggressive reporting from a female journalist for personal reasons, asking, “You banging her?” He could also bridle at the indignity of voter courtship, growing especially irritated about an event celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish harvest holiday when the faithful gather outdoors beneath temporary shelters of branches and greenery. “These people and their fucking tree houses,” Cuomo vented to his team, according to a person who witnessed it and another who was briefed on his comments at the time. (The spokesman denied both incidents, adding: “His two sisters married Jewish men, and he has the highest respect for Jewish traditions.”)
Cuomo’s election as attorney general — over the Republican nominee, Jeanine Pirro, the future Trump-defending Fox News personality — at last conferred upon him a power commensurate to his political appetites. One former associate recalled Cuomo’s describing an advantage of the job after taking office: When visitors sat for investigative interviews, Cuomo enthused, he could make them nervous with physicality alone, leaning forward in his chair as they studied his every twitch. “I loom over that table,” Cuomo said, according to the associate. “In their minds, I’m Sonny Corleone” — the violently impulsive eldest son in “The Godfather” — “and I’m capable of anything.” (The spokesman wrote that Cuomo “never uses ‘Godfather’ references,” adding, “This is an anti-Italian, bigoted, false, defamatory statement.”)
Cuomo’s spokesperson might end up being the busiest staffer in politics by the time his career comes to an end. So far, though, Cuomo appears a lot more politically bulletproof than Sonny Corleone wound up being in the film. Despite having at least five active scandals percolating simultaneously, one of them (the nursing-home policy and cover-up) with a body count, Cuomo’s polling shows him within reach of re-election to a fourth term.
Could that get tripped up by a technicality? The Albany Times-Union reports that Cuomo’s book-writing efforts might have violated state labor laws:
Cuomo has said members of his staff volunteered to help produce “American Crisis.” Ronald Dunn, an Albany attorney who specializes in employment cases, said that under state and federal labor laws the legality of that arrangement would rest on whether a worker’s efforts are “truly voluntary.”
“In general, if something is truly voluntary, labor laws are not implicated,” said Dunn, a founding partner at the firm Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea. “But if keeping your job, getting an assignment, really any work-related incentive hinges on participation, it isn’t voluntary.”
Several lower-level Cuomo staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, recently told the Times Union that they did not consider the work assignments — such as printing out copies of Cuomo’s manuscript and taking them to the Executive Mansion — to be truly voluntary. Assignments related to the book were given during the course of normal work duties, and expected within the culture of Cuomo’s office, they said.
Cuomo’s already in legal and political danger from using his staff to do work on his side business of bookwriting, which reportedly netted Cuomo $4 million last year. The bigger risk is using taxpayer-funded time for personal business, which is a misappropriation of state resources that can rise to criminal charges. This kind of labor-law violation is usually administrative, not criminal, and results in fines and back pay. This would be akin to getting Al Capone not on tax evasion, but on jaywalking.
One would hope that the totality of scandals and corruption from Cuomo would end up being his undoing. At the moment, though, it looks like Cuomo’s corruption has transformed into a Too Big To Fail enterprise.