- By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square contributor / Mar 7, 2021
(The Center Square) – Despite two more women coming forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior this weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday reiterated that he would not resign and pledged to not be “distracted” by the scandals dogging his administration.
“We have to get a budget done in three weeks,” he told reporters. “We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do for this state. This is not about me and accusations about me. The attorney general can handle that. This is about doing the people’s business, and this next six months, I believe will determine the future trajectory for New York state.”
While Cuomo may be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming budget, the news cycle for the administration has been dominated by accusations of misconduct, be it either the ongoing nursing home scandal or the sexual harassment case that is snowballing.
Cuomo faced calls for his resignation after the previous allegations, and on Sunday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, added her voice to those calls.
“Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “… We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stopped short of outright calling for Cuomo’s resignation, but in a statement he echoed the remarks from his Senate counterpart.
“I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state,” Heastie said. “We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”
The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post each reported accusations from separate women on Saturday. That makes five women who have made public their allegations of harassment or unwanted affections in just the past two weeks.
The harassment accusations aren’t just tied to his gubernatorial term, either. One of the accusations dates back more than two decades when Cuomo served in President Clinton’s cabinet.
On Saturday in The Wall Street Journal, Ana Liss said that when she was a staffer for the governor, she endured repeated harassment during her first year on the job, which she got through a competitive fellowship. In 2013, Cuomo called her sweetheart and asked about her dating life.
In addition, she claims that while working a reception at the governor’s manor, Cuomo singled her out and kissed her on both cheeks. As a photographer took their picture, Cuomo has his right hand firmly around Liss’ waist.
Liss, who now works in economic development in Rochester, still keeps that picture in her office and added she supports the work the administration has done. She said she did not report the harassment at the time, but it affected her mental health.
“I just wish – I wish that he took me seriously,” she told the Journal.
Cuomo again downplayed allegations, saying his definition of “friendly banter” includes asking people if they’re dating.
“I know if customs change, then I’ll change the customs and the behaviors, but I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Both the Journal and The Washington Post said they reached out to numerous people who worked for or currently serve under the governor. From those interviewed, both reports used the word “toxic” to describe the culture under Cuomo.
The Post recounts an allegation from Karen Hinton, who served as a press aide for Cuomo when he served as Housing and Urban Development secretary. After an acrimonious departure from HUD, she and Cuomo mended bridges, which enabled her to serve later as a consultant.
In December 2000, when as a consultant she helped orchestrate an event in California, Hinton said she was summoned to his hotel room afterward. In that dimly lit room, Hinton said Cuomo asked her about her personal life. Then, as she tried to leave, he embraced her.
Hinton’s said Cuomo held her in a way that was “too long, too tight, too intimate.”
Cuomo, on Sunday, denied her allegations and called her a “long-time political adversary.”
“Every woman has a right to come forward, that’s true,” he said. “But the truth also matters. What she said is not true.”