The last few weeks of Andrew Cuomo’s political life haven’t been easy for the Empire State Governor, and this week, things are taking a turn for the worse.
Cuomo has been fending off heavy accusations stemming from his decision to move COVID-19 patients to nursing homes during the early days of the pandemic, and his subsequent attempts to intimidate those who looked to expose the extent of the damage from that decision.
Now, on the heels of that mess, a former staffer of Cuomo’s named Lindsey Boylan has penned a massive and trouble account of the sexual harassment that she endured as the hands of the Governor.
From Boylan’s account:
“Let’s play strip poker.”
I should have been shocked by the Governor’s crude comment, but I wasn’t.
We were flying home from an October 2017 event in Western New York on his taxpayer-funded jet. He was seated facing me, so close our knees almost touched. His press aide was to my right and a state trooper behind us.
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” I responded sarcastically and awkwardly. I tried to play it cool. But in that moment, I realized just how acquiescent I had become.
And that wasn’t nearly the worst of it.
My first encounter with the Governor came at a January 6, 2016, event at Madison Square Garden to promote the new Pennsylvania Station-Farley Complex project. After his speech, he stopped to talk to me. I was new on the job and surprised by how much attention he paid me.
My boss soon informed me that the Governor had a “crush” on me. It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: the struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance.
Stephanie Benton, Director of the Governor’s Offices, told me in an email on December 14, 2016 that the Governor suggested I look up images of Lisa Shields — his rumored former girlfriend — because “we could be sisters” and I was “the better looking sister.” The Governor began calling me “Lisa” in front of colleagues. It was degrading.
The harassment was widespread and constant.
His inappropriate gestures became more frequent. He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine’s Day and arranged to have one delivered to me, the only one on my floor. A signed photograph of the Governor appeared in my closed-door office while I was out. These were not-so-subtle reminders of the Governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him.
In 2018, I was promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor. I initially turned the job down — not because I didn’t want the responsibility or work but because I didn’t want to be near him. I finally accepted the position at the Governor’s insistence with one requirement — I would keep my old agency office and remain on a separate floor from him and his inner circle.
The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were “money and power.”
The remainder of Boylan’s accusations can be read here.
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