This week the New York State attorney general released a damning report corroborating sexual harassment claims from 11 women against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Revelations that Cuomo groped and made inappropriate comments to female staffers have led President Biden, Congressional Democrats, and a once-fawning media to distance themselves from Cuomo and demand he resign.
It took them a while.
When sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo surfaced late last year, his allies were right to suspend their judgment and wait for the investigation to conclude. If only the same grace were extended without fear or favour: in the age of #MeToo, an allegation too often becomes a life sentence for a leader without the correct politics. Cuomo should consider himself lucky.
But even Cuomo’s most loyal fans should have called for his resignation after the Covid-19 nursing home scandal. A year ago, Cuomo’s top aide admitted that the Governor’s office had pressured state health officials to edit a report in order to conceal the deaths of some 9,000 nursing home residents.
Many of the deaths took place following a Cuomo policy that sent elderly patients who tested positive to Covid-19 back into nursing homes where the deadly virus was allowed to spread.
Ironically, Cuomo’s office brokered the stealth edits around the same time he was penning a memoir entitled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic — a project that has since earned the governor a tidy US$5 million.
The same AG who handed down this week’s report on Cuomo also released one in January that found nursing home deaths had been undercounted in New York by as much as 50 percent. In a callous address to the media at the time, Cuomo downplayed the scandal, even asking “who cares” whether the deaths took place in a nursing home or a hospital.
New York’s governor has also escaped federal scrutiny for the nursing home scandal after President Biden’s Department of Justice last month declined to investigate Cuomo’s disastrous nursing home policies.
It goes without saying that if Andrew Cuomo was not such a darling of the progressive establishment, he would have been without a job as early as April of 2020.
It is a sad reflection on the West’s ethical decline — and polarised political environment — that Cuomo had to kill thousands of elderly and be exposed as a serial predator before facing any real accountability from the media and political allies.
What garnered him so much favour and protection?
Cuomo signed same-sex marriage into New York State law in 2011, four years before the Supreme Court made it legal throughout the US. In 2019, he effectively made abortion-to-birth legal and directed New York City’s landmark buildings be lit up in pink to celebrate the passage of the law.
New York’s governor has also demonised those who hold traditional views on social issues. Asked on a 2014 radio interview whether he would seek Republican backing on certain policy issues, Cuomo scoffed:
Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
Whether same-sex adoption, commercial surrogacy, assisted suicide or almost any other progressive cause, Andrew Cuomo has ticked all the boxes to win over the culture’s gatekeepers.
Of course the now-disgraced governor was also dutiful in his denunciations of sexual harassment as the #MeToo campaign took off.
“That’s not how you treat women. That’s not how you talk about women,” Cuomo said of Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood scandal. “It’s not okay. It won’t be sanctioned.”
During his 2018 re-election campaign, Cuomo ran Facebook ads promoting his workplace policy as “the strongest sexual harassment policy in the nation.” He also praised sexual harassment laws passed by the state in 2018, saying,
Sexual harassment of women is real, it is undeniable, and this is the moment in history to make the reform and end it and end it once and for all, and New York is going to be the state to do it. It ends here and it ends now.
When four women accused former New York AG Eric Schneiderman of sexual abuse, Cuomo sent out a press release calling on him to resign, which Schneiderman did a day later. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” the statement said:
My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General, and for the good of the office, he should resign.
Despite a myriad of calls for his own resignation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has so far refused to do the same.
This is what happens when accountability dies at the feet of partisanship. Cuomo thinks he’s above the law, and for a simple reason: the powers-that-be have told him that he is.