Governor Andrew Cuomo is going through an uncommon set of circumstances for somebody accustomed to operating the present: he’s taking part in protection because the state’s Legal professional Common prepares to analyze allegations of sexual harassment leveled by two girls who used to work in his administration, with a 3rd allegation of an undesirable advance from a girl he met at a marriage reception.
Whereas Cuomo’s tightly held grasp on energy seems to be rapidly unraveling — with some requires his resignation coming from different Democrats on the metropolis, state, and federal stage — the governor’s potential undoing stems from a collection of private actions through which he allegedly abused that energy, leaving girls feeling shaken, undermined, embarrassed and worse.
The stories stand in distinction to how Cuomo has positioned himself on coverage issues, as a champion of girls’s rights. He was the person behind the Ladies’s Equality Occasion, who ultimately signed the Reproductive Well being Act and even pushed to increase the statute of limitations on allegations of rape, sitting flanked by leaders of Hollywood’s Time’s Up motion.
However critics say beneath the press releases and public appearances, Cuomo has really appropriated feminism as a software, positioning girls as props in a political technique that maintains his personal energy and management.
“The governor has supplied a efficiency of feminism with himself because the poster little one,” mentioned Alexis Grenell, a Democratic political advisor and columnist for The Nation who has written about problems with gender and politics for almost a decade. “That is what the Ladies’s Equality Occasion was.”
In the summertime of 2014, when the governor was searching for his first reelection, he invented a brand new poll line, the Ladies’s Equality Occasion, and drafted his newly picked candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, to be its champion together with former Metropolis Council Speaker Christine Quinn, contemporary from her defeat within the 2013 mayoral main. Organizing the get together was an opportunity for Quinn to reemerge in politics with a powerful ally.
“For me, this can be a nice alternative to assist a pal who I believe is wonderful and one which has completed issues which have made my private life higher,” Quinn instructed the Each day Information on the time, invoking Cuomo’s assist for legalizing homosexual marriage in 2011. Quinn married her accomplice, Kim Catullo, a yr after that.
On the time, the governor confronted a problem from his left: Fordham College regulation professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged the governor for the Working Households Occasion nomination and determined to main the governor on the Democratic line. All through the race, Teachout mentioned, Cuomo refused to debate her, to say her title, or to even greet her in public settings.
In a second captured on a video that went viral, Cuomo’s workers, aided in a uncommon second of comity with Mayor Invoice de Blasio, managed to bodily block Teachout from even shaking palms with Cuomo at a Labor Day Parade simply days earlier than the first.
“He is proven form of a deep disdain and lack of respect for anyone who challenges him, however specifically for girls who’re talking up and difficult his energy,” mentioned Teachout.
Cuomo received that main with greater than 60% of the vote; Teachout secured simply over 30%. He additionally received the final election and managed to attain sufficient votes on each the WFP and WEP traces to make sure the events could be on the subsequent poll, in 2018.
Since its inception, the WEP raised eyebrows amongst different girls leaders, together with State Senator Liz Krueger, who known as its institution a “mistake” and noticed it as a possible menace to girls’s management throughout the Democratic get together, Politico reported.
That menace got here to bear simply two years later when Krueger confronted a problem from Michael Zumbluskas, who ran towards her on the Republican and Ladies’s Equality Occasion line. Krueger received her race soundly, regardless of being compelled to confront the very concern she had raised.
Past utilizing girls in electoral settings, progressive advocates say Cuomo’s assist of the Impartial Democratic Convention [IDC], a gaggle of eight Democratic state senators who conferenced with the Republicans to present them management of the chamber, served as a serious impediment to enacting insurance policies, just like the Reproductive Well being Act, a coverage lengthy supported by girls’s advocacy organizations.
In 2017, in the course of the first yr of Donald Trump’s presidency and after tens of millions gathered for the Ladies’s March throughout the nation, advocates in New York directed their vitality to securing passage for the RHA, which might replace the state’s abortion legal guidelines to make sure girls in New York would have entry to full reproductive well being care even when Roe v. Wade was overturned.
That spring, as advocates tried to stress Cuomo to assist the laws, they started a collection of standard lunchtime protests exterior his workplace. In early Might, representatives from a handful of the teams had been summoned to a gathering with Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, on the governor’s Manhattan workplace.
“We went in principally figuring out that they had been calling us in to present us a stern speaking to and inform us to close up. In order that was not stunning,” mentioned Danielle De Matteo, who attended the assembly on behalf of Ahead March, a company that shaped as an outgrowth of the Ladies’s March.
De Matteo mentioned what was stunning was that she mentioned David instructed the group that they might put the facility of the governor’s workplace behind combating to move the RHA, “if and provided that we stopped demonizing the governor and the members of the IDC,” she mentioned.
David, who served as Cuomo’s counsel from 2015 till June of 2019 when he left to steer the Human Rights Marketing campaign, mentioned that description of the assembly was inaccurate.
“In negotiating laws, my aim was all the time to interact with advocates to current a full image of what was potential below the circumstances and advise on programs of motion that we thought was best.” David mentioned. “I’d by no means situation assist for progressive laws for political acquire. And my private historical past displays that.”
After Democrats formally took management of the State Senate, defeating six IDC members with out Cuomo’s assist, the Reproductive Well being Act handed in the beginning of the session in January 2019, 46 years to the day of america Supreme Courtroom’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. The governor signed the invoice that day, sporting a pink necktie.
State Senator Jessica Ramos, who defeated former IDC member Jose Peralta in a main, mentioned Cuomo has refused to barter in good religion with individuals who problem him.
“That is somebody who is extremely insecure, a narcissist, and who’s unwilling to productively work with others in a collaborative method that is not bullying and is not manipulation of individuals and details,” mentioned Ramos.
Whereas a spokesperson from Cuomo’s workplace has not but responded to a request for remark for this story, there’s a listing of coverage achievements the administration can level to, together with insurance policies enacted to handle girls’s reproductive well being, pay fairness, elimination of gender-based pricing, with ongoing work to handle maternal mortality and create restoration applications that deal with the influence COVID-19 has had on girls.
He has girls in prime positions in his administration, most prominently Melissa DeRosa who has sat by the governor’s facet all through the pandemic, coordinating the state response. She serves as Secretary to the governor, the highest appointed place in state authorities. She additionally chairs the state’s Council on Ladies and Ladies and is behind latest legislative adjustments on home violence protections and elevated entry to in vitro fertilization.
On the similar time, the problems raised within the latest collection of allegations level to a disconnect between his public persona and his private interactions with workers and acquaintances, a few of which at the moment are below scrutiny.
For example, in 2019, Cuomo held a press convention at his Manhattan workplace flanked on both facet by Julianne Moore and Mira Sorvino, two of the actresses from Time’s Up, a motion aimed toward addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence, the place he signed laws that prolonged the statute of limitations for rape from 5 years below the earlier regulation to 10 to twenty years, relying on the character of the crime. The change offers individuals extra time in the event that they need to search costs towards their attackers.
Within the press launch asserting the regulation, the Cuomo administration described New York as “a nationwide chief within the combat towards sexual harassment,” and famous that the state had enacted new office harassment protections, “to make sure workers can search justice and perpetrators will likely be held accountable by eliminating the restriction that harassment be ‘extreme or pervasive’ in an effort to be legally actionable.”
That occasion was held in September, the identical month that Anna Ruch instructed the NYTimes that the governor tried to kiss her at a marriage.