A third woman has accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of unwanted sexual advances. Is Cuomo out? Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Is Cuomo Cancelled?
John Bowden, writing for The Hill, reports: “A third woman has accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of unwanted sexual advances, joining two former aides to the governor who previously released their own accounts.
Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times in an interview published Monday evening that she met Cuomo in 2019 at a wedding, during which the governor, 63, put his hand on her lower back. After she says she removed his hand, Cuomo then placed his hand on her cheeks before asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of Cuomo with his hands on her face was provided to the Times.” Here’s what both sides are saying:
On The Right
The right sees the latest sexual harassment accusations as yet another mark against a governor they view as thoroughly incompetent and corrupt. Some on the center-right, however, are currently willing to afford some benefit of the doubt to Cuomo’s defense.
Adam Goodman writes in The Hill that Cuomo’s scandal is “no random accident – but rather one long in the making, with devastating collateral impact.” He implies that Cuomo’s “win at all costs” brand of politics has created many enemies, and thereby, “this is not accidental misfortune but personal and purposeful.” Goodman sees Cuomo “hurtling for a reckoning he can neither control nor stop,” citing a series of scandals ranging from allegations of sexual harassment and political bullying to covering up a disastrous senior care policy with respect to COVID-19. Goodman explains that “The Governor made a massive and fatal mistake, moving COVID-infected patients into nursing homes, then purposely understated how many seniors died because of it.” Last month, “The Governor’s right-hand confidante, Melissa DeRosa, admitted on a conference call that they hid the data, knowing the truth would not set them free but set them up for political execution.” To Goodman, the latest sexual harassment accusations are just part and parcel for the New York governor.
Seth Barron summarizes the situation in the pages of The New York Post by noting that “On top of the recognition that the national hero of the COVID crisis in fact made a hash of the response … he now faces a series of harassment claims from female assistants.” Barron, however, thinks Cuomo is safe, politically. He points out that “Impeachment in New York State would require a majority vote from the Assembly, followed by a trial in the state Senate. Two-thirds of the senators would have to vote to convict.” Impeachment is unlikely given the fact that “Carl Heastie and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leaders of the state assembly and Senate respectively have been muted in their condemnations, not even agreeing to consider removing the governor’s pandemic-related emergency authority.” Barron further notes that “New York vests enormous power in its executive, and for now at least Andrew Cuomo remains the skipper. We are in the middle of budget season, there is a $200 billion pile of pork ready for distribution, and the governor decides which end of the trough gets filled up first.” Barron concludes that “New Yorkers will have to confront, again, a failed political culture that is destroying a once-great state.”
The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal strikes a more measured tone, declaring that they’ll “wait for the results of the investigation into the Governor’s conduct.” However, they do point out that refraining from judgement is not something Cuomo was willing to do for Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. After all, when Kavanaugh was “accused by Christine Blasey Ford of harassment without corroboration, Mr. Cuomo issued a statement saying ‘I believe Dr. Ford’s testimony is very compelling. Only a political skeptic could find a reason to disbelieve her. What is her possible motive to lie?’”
The right largely believes that Cuomo deserves his political comeuppance for these scandals but is split as to whether or not he will in fact survive them.
On The Left
Pundits on the center-left take Cuomo to task for exercising bad judgement, while criticism from progressives goes much further. They blame both the media and his political allies for ignoring his incompetence and corruption with respect to his COVID-19 policy, as well as the more recent harassment accusations.
“Even Mr. Cuomo’s version of what occurred,” The Washington Post Editorial Board opines, “raises troubling questions about his judgment and fitness to serve in public office. He didn’t dispute her account but said he never intended to act in any way that was inappropriate. He said he thought he was acting as a mentor and lamented that he often is ‘playful’ and likes to ‘make jokes’ with some staff that may have been ‘misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.’” They continue, writing that “It is astounding that someone in government as long as Mr. Cuomo wouldn’t realize, particularly after the #MeToo movement, the power dynamics of the workplace that make any such talk wrong and not to be tolerated.” Still, the Editorial Board questions “whether the sexual harassment allegations end up costing Mr. Cuomo his job.”
Michelle Goldberg believes Cuomo’s fate is a test of the power of the #MeToo movement. She declares in The New York Times that “Given the prospect of months of damaging revelations from the various inquiries into Cuomo, Democrats would probably be better off jettisoning him now over the sexual harassment charges.” Goldberg suspects that the Democratic party will back off, still scarred by political bitterness over Al Fraken’s resignation. She opines that “There’s tremendous bitterness toward those who pressured Al Franken to leave the Senate in 2018 after he was accused of grabbing several women’s butts.” Ultimately, Goldberg believes Cuomo is protected by the “TV-nurtured myth of Cuomo’s take-charge competence,” despite “the nursing home scandal, and the fact that New York’s vaccination rate is worse than Florida or Arizona’s.” She cynically concludes that “For plenty of people, it’s still easier to forgive a man for sexually harassing someone than it is to forgive a woman for ending an admired man’s career. Cuomo has been seriously weakened. But he’ll have to be weaker still before derailing the life of a young woman is enough to dethrone him.”
David Sirota and Andrew Perez also point fingers at the media in Jacobin. They write that “Cuomo’s political liability shield could only exist because the media built it for him.” In addition to the nursing home data scandal, the authors accuse the Cuomo administration of “slipping provisions into the state budget that helped the governor’s largest health care industry donors obtain legal immunity for nursing home executives.” The whistleblower who spoke out against that move was “all but ignored by a press corps giving Cuomo largely uncritical wall-to-wall coverage, depicting him as a swashbuckling lionheart saving his state from certain doom.” They continue, writing that “Ultimately, as New York racked up the nation’s highest body count, and the press ignored Cuomo’s Democratic critics in the legislature, this deification all culminated in a macabre scene: standing in the shadow of his own Mount COVID, Cuomo received a six-figure deal to write a book about his leadership, and he was awarded an Emmy for his television performances.” They end by asking whether this will be “a moment of accountability” or a “moment when media organizations permanently establish that infrastructure of impunity, to the point where a governor can now get away with hiding a death toll?”
Like Republicans, Democrats are critical of Cuomo but are also left wondering whether these most recent scandals are enough to sink him politically.
Democrats and Republicans alike are right to be cautious about prematurely announcing Cuomo’s political demise. While Cuomo’s brand is surely damaged, the nursing home scandal alone was not enough to destroy it. According to polling done by Morning Consult in mid-February, “57% of New York voters approved of Cuomo’s job performance, down 6 points since it was reported that one of his aides told lawmakers that his administration intentionally withheld information on nursing home deaths.” With that said, the latest sexual harassment accusations do seem to be having an impact on Cuomo’s image. According to a new Emerson College/WPIX-TV/NewsNation poll, 64% of New York voters said Cuomo should not be reelected to a fourth term in next year’s election. More strikingly, just 52% of Democrats said he should get another term, while 48% said it’s time for someone new. As it relates to overall approval, only 38% of voters approve of the job he’s doing. 48% don’t approve. In terms of what’s next, Luis Ferré-Sadurní of The New York Times reported yesterday that the Governor could be compelled to testify under oath during New York State attorney general, Letitia James’, investigation. Alayna Treene of Axios notes that “nobody thinks he’ll quit without a fight — putting many Democrats in a corner.” She adds, “… Cuomo is politically wounded but not yet dead.”
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