It was Andrew Cuomo’s Emmy-winning performance: daily televised coronavirus briefings in which the New York governor projected competence and compassion, helping to calm a nervous nation.
Now, the many Americans whose positive impressions of Cuomo were formed during the height of the pandemic are getting a close-up of a very different governor, one accused of underreporting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, sexually harassing female staffers and bullying colleagues.
To New Yorkers who have watched the Democrat for years, however, the allegations are consistent with how Cuomo maintains his tight grip on power. The same forceful, micromanaging, even adversarial style that appeared to serve him well in the pandemic, they say, could lead to his undoing.
“The national audience who looked to him for guidance and comfort in the past year don’t want to see someone they respect fall from grace," said Fordham University political scientist Christina Greer. “But there are a lot of New Yorkers who have known Cuomo and his behavior who are saying it’s time for his comeuppance.”
The three-term governor, 63, said Wednesday that he would not resign, and urged those demanding his departure to await the results of an independent investigation into the harassment allegations, overseen by Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James.
Cuomo apologized for making women uncomfortable but denied touching anyone inappropriately. He said he regularly greets people with a hug and kiss, a habit acquired from his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“I understand sensitivities have changed. Behavior has changed,” Cuomo said. “I get it and I’m going to learn from it.”
Former aide Lindsey Boylan, 36, accused Cuomo of persistent harassment, including kissing her without consent and suggesting a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo asked if she ever had sex with older men and said he was fine dating “anyone above the age of 22.”