When you look at the report by New York State Letitia James into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct, it is hard to see a way out for Cuomo. James’ 168-page report describing Cuomo’s conduct towards a number of women reads like an eyewitness account of a typical night at the Studio 54 nightclub in New York in the 1970’s. You almost expect to see Mr. Shagadelic himself, Austin Powers burst through the door yelling, “Yeah. Baby. Yeah!”
The report provides in excruciating detail how Cuomo, habitually groped, kissed, fondled and smut-talked nearly a dozen women—most of them in positions far subordinate to Cuomo and his senior staff who, it was found, enabled the Governor’s behaviour by creating a climate of fear and retaliation in the executive offices.
Cuomo tried to respond to the allegations with a videotape described by CNN’s Chris Cillizza as “a total and complete disaster. Like, dumpster, on fire, floating down a flooded street bad. Like Mark Sanford Appalachian Trail bad. Like “Ishtar” bad.” (Mark Sanford, you may recall was the former South Carolina Governor who disappeared from sight for a week, only to emerge to tell the press he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail, when in fact he was in Argentina with a mistress. Cuomo apparently thought he could diffuse the situation by including a video montage of him kissing and hugging a number of people of all ranks, just to show that he did it to everybody, not just subordinates.
Wrote Cillizza, “as The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker noted on Twitter: “‘I do it with everyone,’ is an interesting defense of sexually inappropriate behavior.” Or as CNN’s Laura Jarrett put it: “In court, saying you’ve been doing the same behavior ‘all your life’ and showing pictures of kissing your mother would not be an effective defense to allegations of pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace detailed over the course of 168 pages.”
The report has also done serious collateral damage to the credibility of Cuomo’s bother Andrew, a CNN prime-time host. The report reveals that the younger Cuomo, as part of an inner circle, advised his brother to show contrition, which is pretty standard PR advice, except that it doesn’t work if the perpetrator is not the slightest bit contrite.
State prosecutors are looking into the evidence to see if criminal charges are warranted, and members of the New York State assembly are starting to mull over impeachment proceedings. Something seems to happen to these New York City -born politicians when they make the 150-mile trip north to state capital in Albany. One of Cuomo’s predecessors—Elliot Spitzer had to resign the governorship when it was revealed he had spent $80,000 US on prostitutes; and a former New York governor Nelson Rockefeller died of a heart attack, after leaving office while spending the evening with a 25-year old female aide in a Manhattan townhouse. He was 70.
The full report can be accessed here.