WATERTOWN — Stalwart supporters of Andrew Cuomo gave me a lesson in loyalty last week.
Several Twitter users scolded me Monday night for not embracing Cuomo’s declaration that he did not engage in sexual harassment of which he’s accused. He announced his resignation Aug. 10 following the release of a report on the allegations prepared by state Attorney General Letitia James the week before.
Cuomo turned in his letter of resignation Monday, which stated it would take effect at midnight Tuesday. His many admirers spent the evening lamenting his political demise.
Over the course of eight years, Melissa DeRosa ascended to the top of the ranks of Cuomo’s inner circle. She started working for him in March 2013 as his director of communications and was appointed his chief of staff in 2015.
DeRosa became secretary to the governor in 2017. In this position, she was second only to Cuomo in exerting authority within the Executive Chamber. Cuomo referred to her as one of his “mean girls” for the way she went people who got in the governor’s way.
James’s report cites DeRosa as playing a role in an effort to undermine the credibility of former administration staffer Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. DeRosa and other Cuomo aides reportedly released Boylan’s personnel file to journalists — which violated laws prohibiting retaliation against victims of sexual harassment, according to the AG’s report.
As the hours ticked down Monday to the end of Cuomo’s time in office, DeRosa continued to defend him. She also had previously announced her resignation, set to coincide with his.
“If the NY press corps had a Jimmy Breslin or Pete Hamill or Jim Dwyer, this story would have been cracked wide open,” she tweeted Monday, referring to several legendary New York City columnists.
Presuming the “story” DeRosa mentioned concerned all the reported scandals that led Cuomo to resign, I replied:
“Excellent journalists have investigated this story thoroughly. But it seems that Melissa DeRosa wants to shop around until she finds a journalist who will say what she wants. Yep, these people made a living at our expense!”
DeRosa responded back: “Have they? What questions did you ask?”
With the focus of my work being more on Northern New York than on Albany, I wasn’t counting myself among these excellent journalists. But they are out there, and they’ve kept people informed about what’s going on in Albany. Individuals who’ve persistently shed light on the Cuomo administration include Brendan Lyons of the Times Union, Bernadette Hogan of the New York Post, Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for Public Policy, Anne McCloy of WRGB-TV, Jimmy Vielkind of the Wall Street Journal, Morgan Mckay of Spectrum News and Kate Lisa of the Watertown Daily Times (my apologies to anyone I didn’t mention who’s kept the pressure on Cuomo — keep it up!)
James’s report dealt exclusively with the allegations of sexual harassment. But it’s likely that Cuomo resigned because of the impeachment proceedings underway in the state Legislature.
The investigation related to the impeachment looked into more than just the accusations of sexual harassment. Other scandals were the Cuomo administration’s method of presenting data on nursing home residents who died of COVID-19, the governor’s use of executive branch staffers in writing a book during the pandemic and work done on the Mario Cuomo Bridge.
DeRosa may have been referring solely to the allegations of sexual harassment when she mentioned “this story” in her tweet. Cuomo’s groupies on Twitter pointed out what they believe are flaws in the accounts offered by his accusers.
Some comments concerned discrepancies in James’s report between how the accusers described certain events and what other witnesses said occurred. This indeed raises questions about the credibility of these allegations and must be taken into account by people reading the report.
But other comments were puzzling and outright bizarre.
One questioned why an accuser wore shorts if she felt so horribly uncomfortable in Cuomo’s presence. This is a textbook example of slut-shaming, and it’s inappropriate. There’s no need for a woman to change anything about her behavior because a man sexually harasses her — he’s the one who must keep a check on his actions.
Another comment claimed that two accusers said they were called in to help Cuomo with his iPhone but that footnotes in the AG’s report state he doesn’t own an iPhone. Gee, perhaps the women mistakenly believed that Cuomo was using an iPhone or were mistakenly told by someone else that he needed help with his iPhone. Mistakes happen, but this doesn’t necessarily mean their allegations of sexual harassment were false.
If the accusations of sexual harassment are as flimsy as Cuomo’s supporters declare them to be, they would be easy to refute. So Cuomo should have demonstrated his “New York Tough” persona and refuted them. This is particularly relevant since in his farewell speech, he said he believed that he’ll at some point be exonerated.
But the sexual harassment allegations were just one part of Cuomo’s downfall. The impeachment — which, very conveniently, was suspended following his resignation — included other serious issues.
It’s obvious that Cuomo didn’t want these to be hashed out in public, so he resigned.
The evidence against him is what forced Cuomo out of office, not sensationalism by the news media.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.