Lindsey Boylan accusations speed Andrew Cuomo’s stunning downfall

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced calls from New Yorkers to resign Wednesday after a former aide renewed her accusations that he sexually harassed her, accelerating one of the swiftest downfalls of an elected leader’s public stature in recent memory.

Former New York state official Lindsey Boylan accused Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, of kissing her on the lips without her consent and suggesting that they play strip poker on a flight. She also recounted a series of unwelcome advances and inappropriate touching.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Ms. Boylan wrote in a blog post. “I’m compelled to tell my story because no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation — not by the governor or anyone else.”

Ms. Boylan’s accusations, which she first raised in December, opened a floodgate of similar criticisms against the governor.

New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat who is seeking to strip Mr. Cuomo of his emergency powers, said she believes Ms. Boylan’s claims.

“I have no doubt that this is true,” Ms. Biaggi tweeted. “I’ve witnessed similar behavior, and it’s unacceptable. While the abuse lies mainly with the abuser, the abuse also extends to those who help keep it silent. They are complicit too.”

Former Cuomo aide Karen Hinton called Mr. Cuomo a master of the art of what she termed “penis politics,” in which male leaders create a public image of championing women’s rights while degrading female subordinates behind the scenes.

“In Cuomo’s world — and he would never admit this even to himself — working for him is like a 1950s version of marriage. He always, always, always comes first,” she wrote in the New York Daily News.

U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik and Claudia Tenney, New York Republicans, urged Mr. Cuomo to step down. Ms. Stefanik called the governor a “criminal sexual predator.”

“Sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace is not a political issue. It is about right and wrong,” she said.

A billboard on Interstate 787 near the governor’s mansion in the state capital of Albany began featuring Mr. Cuomo’s face on Wednesday with a one-word message: “Impeach!” It was funded by a pro-Trump gun dealer.

Mr. Cuomo’s office responded by saying, “Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”

The governor’s spokeswoman provided flight manifests from 2017 and a joint statement from four other passengers on the flights who said the conversation about strip poker “did not happen.”

Despite the governor’s denials, it was clear that his political standing was plummeting by the hour. The accusations of harassment and bullying were piled on top of accusations that Mr. Cuomo covered up the COVID-19 death toll of nursing home residents because of a federal investigation. He has denied wrongdoing.

Just a few months ago, Mr. Cuomo was hailed by Democrats and the mainstream media as the compassionate, Emmy-winning leader of the nation’s struggle with the pandemic.

Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly tweeted sarcastically on Wednesday, “I’m sure CNN will be all over this tonight.” She said a sexual harassment scandal involving a sitting governor deserves at least as much news coverage as media devoted to the story of male Fox executives harassing female employees.

Even New York Democrats are calling at least for censure. The governor, who plans to run for a fourth term next year, is finding few in his party who are willing to defend him publicly.

“Cuomo is a coward who has abused his powers,” said state Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat who accused Mr. Cuomo of threatening him over the nursing home scandal. “His pattern of abuse and harassment toward his aides, journalists, lawmakers and critiques is despicable.”

Mr. Kim tweeted, “As a lawmaker, I have the duty to hold him accountable. I will not stand down. I will stand with Lindsey Boylan. I will stand with my colleagues who have endured his verbal abuse. I will stand with the 15,000 families who lost loved ones in nursing homes.”

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, a New York-based organization formed by former state legislative employees, called for an independent investigation into Ms. Boylan’s accusations.

“There must be an immediate independent investigation into Governor Cuomo’s workplace behavior, conducted by an entity over which Cuomo does not have any appointment or supervisory powers,” the group said.

In Congress, Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee urged Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, to subpoena Mr. Cuomo’s testimony and documents on the nursing home scandal.

“Governor Cuomo ordered contagious patients into nursing homes, lied about it, tried to cover up the data, and now is threatening anyone who crosses him,” said Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the panel.

“For almost ten months, Governor Cuomo has actively obstructed Congress’ access to information about the nursing home death toll and it’s past time for the House Oversight Committee to compel his testimony before Congress to bring the truth to light. We owe it to the thousands of families who lost loved ones to hold accountable anyone whose reckless policies may have contributed to their deaths,” he said.

Ms. Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, first accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment in December after it was reported that President-elect Joseph R. Biden was considering him for U.S. attorney general. She declined to detail her experience at the time and tweeted only that he sexually harassed her “for years” and that many people knew about it.

Mr. Cuomo’s office said at the time that there was no truth to Ms. Boylan’s claims. Three women who previously worked for the governor told the Albany Times-Union at the time that they never witnessed any harassment.

In her Medium post Wednesday, Ms. Boylan said there were several instances when Mr. Cuomo made her feel uncomfortable, including the one after an October 2017 event when he suggested that they “play strip poker.”

“His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,” she wrote. “He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”

Ms. Boylan said she was serving as chief of staff for Empire State Development in 2016 when she first met Mr. Cuomo. She said she complained to friends at the time that he would “go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs” and that she would avoid being alone with him.

She said the worst offense was in 2018, after she was promoted as a special adviser to Mr. Cuomo, and the governor kissed her without her consent.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Mr. Cuomo’s bullying “is nothing new.”

“The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment — many, many times I’ve heard that, and I know a lot of other people in the state that have heard that,” the mayor said.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior Cuomo adviser, defended the governor’s behavior in a statement Monday to The New York Times.

“Yes, they have seen him get impatient with partisan politics and disingenuous attacks, and New Yorkers feel the same way,” Mr. Azzopardi said. “They know you must fight to change the status quo and special interests to make progress, and no one has made more progress than this governor.”

⦁ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.

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