What is society to do with someone who has been investigated and found to have broken both federal and state laws by sexually harassing at least eleven different women?
Well, in the case of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the subject of a five-month long investigation by the state’s Attorney General, apparently the answer is: nothing.
A.G. Letitia James directed the inquiry, dramatically revealed the findings, spoke of the disturbing “toxic culture” in the governor’s office, but failed to seek a grand jury indictment or to file charges against the governor. James kicked the prosecutorial can down the road to local District Attorney’s offices where the alleged offenses occurred.
Andrew Cuomo is a fierce and feared three-term governor, widely known for his political acumen and vindictive response to critics. He has refused calls from several major newspapers and his own party’s top members, including President Biden, to resign. No one is publicly urging him to fight on.
In March, the New York state Assembly launched an impeachment inquiry against Cuomo on wide-ranging allegations, including that he had sexually harassed one female staffer, and to protect his image he directed his staff to lie about the number of elderly citizens who died in nursing homes after he ordered those facilities to take COVID-19 patients. That was a death sentence for such a vulnerable population. Nearly 16,000 seniors died in state care facilities. The Assembly’s impeachment proceeding is now on a much faster track.
Interestingly, the Department of Justice recently announced it dropped its anticipated civil rights investigation into New York’s nursing home scandal.
Andrew Cuomo has proven to be a master at political survival. By sheer force of will he finds ways to make problems go away. In 2014, when the Moreland Commission’s probe of political corruption in the state got too close for comfort Cuomo simply used his power to disband the panel. The feds showed interest in investigating but didn’t.
Now that the sex harassment allegations against Cuomo have exploded, and the tawdry and downright creepy details have been made public, the New York Governor is again a target. He denies the women’s very specific accusations of groping, hugging, kissing, butt grabbing, and breast fondling and says his affectionate behavior was misunderstood. “That is just not who I am, and that is not who I have ever been,” Cuomo said in a pre-recorded video which, weirdly, included photos of him hugging and kissing other people. And, predictably, because A.G. James is reported to be a possible gubernatorial candidate, Cuomo blames the investigation on politics and foes determined to thwart his run for a fourth term.
Ah, he who lives by the political sword can also die by that same sword.
A few years later, one of the governor’s most trusted aides and best friend, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from fat cats doing business with the state. Cuomo righteously and very publicly distanced himself saying Percoco, “is paying the price for violating the public trust.” Privately, the New York Times reported, the Cuomo family spent years raising money for Percoco’s appeal.
Cuomo once tweeted there should be a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & (we) must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.” Hypocritically, the governor now implores us to ignore his accusers.
During congressional hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh Cuomo again took the high and mighty road to oppose the nomination writing, “We owe it to the American people to #BelieveSurvivors.”
The Cuomo posts came at a time when other prominent men like Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Senator Al Franken, comedian Louis C.K., and actors Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman had faced their own sex abuse allegations and were promptly erased from polite society. With due process apparently a thing of the past, shouldn’t Cuomo get the same treatment?
Something tells me Cuomo will not win that coveted fourth term. He may never face charges because serial sex harassers rarely do and he will surely survive. He’ll call on cronies for business opportunities and, as usual, they will respond. His mighty arrogance will convince him that enemies were his downfall because it couldn’t possibly have been something he did.
Move on, Mr. Megalomaniac. You’ve lost the public’s trust.
Note: On August 10th, 2021, about one week after the Attorney General issued her report on the governor, Andrew Cuomo resigned from office. As a result, the state of New York gets its first female head-of-state, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will become the 57th governor of the Empire State.