Former staffer details sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo

Lindsey Boylan’s official title when she worked for Gov. Cuomo was Deputy Secretary of Economic Development for New York State and Special Advisor to the Governor. She quit that job in 2018. Last December she announced on Twitter that it had been the “most toxic” work environment she’d ever been in. She added, “If people weren’t deathly afraid of him, they’d be saying the same thing and you’d already know the stories.” She also said this about the governor.

About a week later, Boylan wrote another thread about Cuomo, stating, “Yes, @NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” That thread concluded with Boylan saying she was not ready to tell her story and be forced to relive the experience:

Sometime between now and then Boylan changed her mind. Today she published a piece at Medium describing years of harassment by Gov. Cuomo in detail. The piece opens with a description of a flight on the governor’s jet.

“Let’s play strip poker.”

I should have been shocked by the Governor’s crude comment, but I wasn’t.

We were flying home from an October 2017 event in Western New York on his taxpayer-funded jet. He was seated facing me, so close our knees almost touched. His press aide was to my right and a state trooper behind us.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” I responded sarcastically and awkwardly. I tried to play it cool. But in that moment, I realized just how acquiescent I had become.

Boylan goes on to explain that her tweets in December had been prompted by talking to another former staffer who had similar experiences with Cuomo. At the time his name was being mentioned as a possible Biden administration AG and Boylan decided she couldn’t let the man who had harassed her and other women become the top law enforcement officer in the country.

Her story with Cuomo began when she took a job with the state in 2015. In January of 2016 that led to a meeting with the governor at an event. She was surprised by how much attention he paid to her. Soon after she was informed that the governor had a “crush” on her.

She got a message in December of 2016 from the woman who ran the governor’s office. It said that she reminded the governor of a former girlfriend: “He said look up Lisa Shields. You could be sisters. Except you’re the better looking sister.” Boylan saved the text message and included a screenshot of it in the story. She said after this message the governor sometimes called her “Lisa” in front of work colleagues.

In 2018 Boylan was promoted. She initially turned the job down because it would involve working more closely with the governor. She accepted after being allowed to continue working on a separate floor. But not long after the promotion, she says the governor kissed her while she was in his office for a private briefing:

The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were “money and power.”

I tried to excuse his behavior. I told myself “it’s only words.” But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.

In September of 2018 she quit.

Boylan says that after her tweets last December two other women who’d had similar experiences contacted her. Both were too afraid to speak up. The sexual harassment angle of this is different but the fear of crossing the governor matches with what happened to Assemblyman Ron Kim. He spoke up about the verbal harassment he received and said many others had experienced the same thing.

Listening to Boylan’s story it doesn’t seem possible that this is a one-time thing. Her experiences of Cuomo weren’t unique, they were part of a culture that surrounded him. There were plenty of other people who knew what he was doing, including women on his staff. There are probably a lot more stories out there waiting to be told. Maybe the media could take a break from praising Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic (which wasn’t very good) and instead try to get some of the other victims of his abuse and harassment to go on the record.