“He Wouldn’t Have Done That If I Were a Man”: Ana Liss, Former Cuomo Aide, On Why She Spoke Out


It’s been two weeks for the reason that first former staffer, Lindsey Boylan, got here ahead with allegations of sexual harassment whereas working for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In that point, 5 different girls have detailed accounts of inappropriate conduct from Cuomo. The governor has dismissed requires his resignation and requested New Yorkers to await the outcomes of Lawyer Common Letitia James’ investigation.

“There are allegations, after which there are allegations,” Cuomo mentioned on a press name Tuesday afternoon. “Let’s get the details after which we are able to have a dialogue on the details.”

One of many girls who has come ahead is Ana Liss, now 35, who labored as a coverage adviser in Cuomo’s Albany workplace between 2013 and 2015 after receiving a aggressive state fellowship. She first described her experiences in his workplace anonymously to Gothamist/WNYC, recounting how she was instructed to put on heels by one other staffer and commonly kissed on the cheek by the governor. She later spoke on the document to the Wall Road Journal about her expertise.

We adopted up with Liss, who’s presently the director Monroe County’s Division of Planning and Growth, in an on the document dialog about what it’s been like since she got here ahead, and why she determined to talk out.

What was it wish to be in that govt suite?

There was a rulebook. But it surely wasn’t a written rulebook. The foundations are totally different. So in a single day I needed to change how I introduced myself within the office, I discovered by observing others, and from some sage recommendation from that administrative assistant who instructed me I needed to put on heels.

I discovered in regards to the rule that males needed to put on white shirts. I discovered that the governor solely wears Salvatore Ferragamo ties.

I discovered that you do not communicate to the person except he speaks to you. Do not attempt to. Do not attempt to method him except he approaches you.

Did you see Cuomo get indignant at work?

I heard him get indignant lots. And I heard his high aides on the time get indignant. The tone was set on the high. It was not an expert office atmosphere. You may at all times minimize the strain with a knife.

How would you describe your relationship with the governor?

I feel he simply thought I used to be a cutie pie. He thought I used to be a cute younger girl from upstate, who’s there as a part of his fellowship program [and] who admired him.

The salutation of a kiss on a cheek, was that taking place day by day within the workplace?

Yeah, every time Cuomo was in Albany and every time he got here by the workplace suite. It was at all times pleasant, flirtatious, joking, kissing on the cheek. He put his hand on the small of my again at a few totally different features, any time we had been photographed collectively, which was on three or 4 events. And I may really feel his eyeballs.

He put a hand on me, or when he drew me close to to him on these restricted events, I didn’t actually know to characterize it on the time for myself. He would not have accomplished that if I had been a person. I would not have sat in that chair if I used to be a person. I would not have been photographed with him like that if I had been a person.

Did you consider it as sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct on the time, and the way are you excited about it now?

I assumed that he thought that I used to be fairly. I assumed that he discovered me enticing. I didn’t worry that he would hurt me bodily. However I knew that I used to be sitting there due to what I appear to be and that if I used to be a man or if I did not match a sure stereotype, I very seemingly would not have been sitting in that chair. And I view that as problematic.

Whenever you hear in regards to the allegations made by Charlotte Bennett and Lindsey Boylan, how do you concentrate on what occurred to you?

I really feel like what occurred to me was on a slippery slope. Once I was studying about what occurred to them, I used to be considering, “Thank god I wasn’t increased up… thank god I wasn’t round him alone, on my own, and thank God he did not take me critically.” As a result of you realize, I consider them, I consider Lindsay and Charlotte.

You at first spoke about your experiences with WNYC/Gothamist anonymously and later determined to go public talking on the document to the Wall Road Journal. What made you modify your thoughts?

Revisiting all these reminiscences, issues that I blocked out of my thoughts. Issues that I pretended by no means occurred as a result of they did not match neatly and tightly into my life story. And simply taking a step again, weighing either side — the professionals and cons — and understanding that. Even when I’ve to pay a value for this, it is the suitable factor to do.

Why do you’re feeling prefer it’s the suitable factor to do?

As a result of Albany, as a result of the governor’s workplace, will not be a secure place for younger girls. For younger girls like me who’ve put lots of religion in different folks. It was like a most cancers, and I needed to come back again to the place life was a little bit bit extra harmless. And I feel that he performs a task in propagating that atmosphere. He advantages from it. Many males profit from it. And I am unhappy for myself. I lied to my mother and my dad, they knew one thing was mistaken they usually had been making an attempt to guard me, and I keep in mind them wanting so badly to know what actually was occurring, what was actually mistaken. I’d by no means inform them.

[I thought] I acquired a fellowship and I will make a distinction, and I really like Rochester and the governor is a champion for upstate New York. After which, months handed and a few years handed and each mild that had been burning vivid inside me was shut off.

What has it been like because you spoke out publicly?

Everyone instructed me, do not learn the feedback, do not learn the feedback. I imply, the governor, up till very just lately, has been fully untouchable and probably the most highly effective particular person in New York State, and one of the highly effective Democrats in the entire nation.

I had by no means instructed anyone about any of this. It was by no means part of my story. I am glad I shared as a result of one other girl got here out Tuesday, and I would wish to suppose that perhaps some a part of her felt emboldened to talk up as a result of I did.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.