Pile on: Two more Cuomo accusers emerge

It’s getting to the point where if you lined up all of the women who have come forward to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of some form of sexual harassment or another, you’d have the makings for at least the beginning of a parade. Former Cuomo press aide (from his time working at HUD) Karen Hinton and Ana Liss, who once served as an aide to the Governor, both came forward yesterday with their own stories to tell of their boss’s “inappropriate behavior” in the past. At this point, the pressure must surely be mounting inside Cuomo’s office, but at least as of this morning, he’s still denying any wrongdoing. The New York Post has the details of the latest accusations against the allegedly handsy chief executive of the Empire State.

Two more women came forward Saturday to accuse Gov. Cuomo of sexually harassing behavior, including a former press aide who describes struggling to free herself from his repeated hugs, and a young assistant who now says he left her feeling like “just a skirt.” …

At the time, Cuomo led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A current rep for Cuomo strongly denied Hinton’s allegation to the newspaper, claiming “this did not happen.”

Another former Cuomo employee, this time a policy and operations aide who worked for the governor in New York from 2013 to 2015, also emerged Saturday with allegations he’d behaved inappropriately while she worked for him in Albany.

The stories both of these women tell are in the same vein as the previous accusers. Neither of them describes anything that would cross the line into a case of criminal sexual assault, but the allegations definitely describe unprofessional behavior that would very likely qualify as sexual harassment. That’s particularly true since Cuomo himself signed a bill into law significantly lowering the bar for actions that fall into that category.

The story told by Ana Liss is yet another alleged instance where Cuomo’s interaction with her could possibly be mistaken for unwanted attention via an inappropriate intrusion into someone’s personal space. She describes Cuomo calling her “sweetheart,” kissing her hand during an official event and asking her if she was dating. It certainly doesn’t sound like sexual assault, but taken as part of a larger pattern it would probably still meet the standard for harassment.

Hinton’s story is significantly darker. Even though she was married at the time, she claims Cuomo summoned her to “a dimly lit hotel room” where he pulled her in for a “too intimate” embrace that went on for too long. When she pulled herself out of the embrace, making it clear she was uncomfortable, Cuomo allegedly grabbed her and pulled her in for another hug. That’s definitely a case of unwanted physical contact and would easily meet the current definition of sexual harassment.

The question now is how long Andrew Cuomo can keep issuing denials and turning a deaf ear to people calling for him to step down. As you may recall, the female Democratic majority leader in the New York Senate has, up until now, resisted calling for Cuomo’s resignation. But just this week she told the local media that “if one more woman comes forward” that it would be “time to resign.” Well, now she has not one, but two more women stepping up to the plate.

It’s also been noted that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the earliest senators to grab the bullhorn in the #MeToo movement, has similarly resisted calling on Cuomo to leave office. That has left her open to charges of hypocrisy because she was very quick to call for Al Franken to resign. (Admittedly, the evidence against Franken was considerably better.)

Andrew Cuomo has a huge ego, so I don’t know if all of this pressure will change his mind about sticking it out. But if the state legislature’s Democratic leadership actually finds that this weekend’s news is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, which is better for Cuomo’s legacy… resigning in disgrace among a flurry of accusations or waiting to be impeached by members of his own party? If that were to happen, he would become only the second governor in the history of New York State to be impeached. (The first was William Sulzer in 1913. He was accused of misusing campaign funds, but it’s widely believed he was set up after starting a fight with one of the bosses at Tammany Hall.)

Having observed the Democrats in Albany for decades, I still find it difficult to imagine them breaking ranks and taking out one of their own. But at this point, the public pressure may be growing too great for them to look the other way or let Cuomo off with a slap on the wrist. I don’t think anyone would be satisfied with a simple vote to censure him now.

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David Strom 8:31 PM on November 29, 2022