By Ariel Steinsaltz
A former member of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration gave details about alleged sexual misconduct on Feb. 24, claiming he kissed her without her consent, touched her inappropriately and suggested they play strip poker, according to the Associated Press.
The alleged victim, Lindsey Boylan, revealed the details in an article on Medium, writing the misconduct lasted over the more than three years that she worked for him. She said that she was motivated to release the details when member of the New York Assembly Ron Kim spoke out and accused Cuomo and his aides of harassment and bullying, according to the Associated Press.
Kim had been a critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. After a Cuomo aide revealed that the state had covered up information about nursing home deaths, Kim alleged that Cuomo called his home and tried to pressure him into covering up the statement. He called the experience traumatizing and claimed that Cuomo threatened to destroy him, according to CNN.
Boylan claimed that when she was leaving a private meeting with Cuomo, he stood in front of her and kissed her on the lips. She said that it was uncomfortable to learn that the governor had a “crush” on her and that this made it difficult to be taken seriously. Cuomo also allegedly compared her to an ex-girlfriend of his. Boylan said that the reason she quit working for Cuomo was because his senior aides grew hostile towards her after she spoke up for herself, according to the Associated Press.
Cuomo’s spokesperson denied all of Boylan’s charges, according to the Associated Press.
A second former aide, Charlotte Bennet, also accused Cuomo of sexual harassment on Saturday. She claimed that he asked her many inappropriate questions about her sex life last spring, according to the New York Times.
She alleged that on June 5, while she was alone with the governor, he asked her whether she thought age differences mattered in romantic relationships and said that he would date a woman in her 20s, which Bennet interpreted as referring to a potential relationship between the two of them, according to the New York Times.
Cuomo also allegedly referred to being lonely during the pandemic and unable to hug anyone. Bennet said that he never tried to touch her, but that the message behind his actions was clear. She told The Times, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.”
Cuomo gave a statement saying that he had seen himself as a mentor to Bennet and did not believe he had acted inappropriately. He also said he was opening an independent investigation, according to the New York Times.
On Sunday, Cuomo apologized for anything he said that was “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation,” but denied any inappropriate behavior, according to the Washington Post. “To be clear, I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” the governor said in a statement.
In the same statement, Cuomo said that he would put the New York attorney general in charge of investigating the allegations against him. This was a change from his previous attempts to have the investigation done by a judge of his choosing or a private lawyer. The change came after he was pressured by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, White House staff, female state lawmakers, members of Congress and other activists and lawmakers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House press secretary Jen Psaki both stressed the importance of a thorough and independent review. Several people called on Cuomo to resign, according to the Washington Post.
A former press secretary of Cuomo’s, Karen Hinton, defended Bennet and said that she did not lie or misinterpret anything the governor said. She criticized the governor’s aides for being afraid to speak out against him, according to the Washington Post. She also acknowledged that it is difficult for women to speak out about inappropriate behavior in politics.
“Male egos dominate most endeavors, but in politics there’s a warlock’s brew of ego, entitlement, power, testosterone, and a ‘bro’ culture that needs to stop,” Hinton said.