Who You Gonna Believe? The Governor? Or the 179 Witnesses Who Say He’s a Bully and a Sexual Harasser?
The trouble with a politician laying down a public bet is that, eventually, there’s a time to pay up.
As sexual harassment allegations built, Gov. Andrew Cuomo relied on his brashness and brass to tell us that if we only held off and investigated, we, the voters, would find there was no meat on the bones.
It was a bet that only he was right, and his accusers were making it up.
The trouble now, months later, is there was a full course buffet of unwanted touches, gropes and retribution. Cuomo’s office “was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable ‘harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment’,” as The New York Times summarized the attorney general’s findings.
So, having laid out the public bet on trust, we’d expect that Cuomo must pay up.
Instead, a governor known for his boastful stubbornness and bullyish tendencies in political arenas, is doubling down. He is now asking us to believe that he is the victim here of bias, despite 179 witnesses and more accounts of harassing behavior that we even had known to have surfaced.
Paying up means bowing out in some fashion – resignation or forgoing reelection or even facing impeachment.
Resignation or Worse
According to the report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo violated state and federal laws as well as state ethics and decency standards for abusive behavior. There was no direct mention of actual prosecution, though David Soares, Albany County district attorney, said that his office would be following up.
Resigning would be the easiest way for Cuomo to settle. Not fessing up is more the unfortunate province for the guy Cuomo has loved to challenge – Donald Trump.
The 165-page report does the job of reviewing the circumstances, and Cuomo attackers and defenders will spend time picking at the details.
There is no pleasure or journalistic interest here in assessing all the claims or in trying to make sense of Cuomo’s arguments that he has a tendency to hug or kiss people on the cheek. He says such gestures are “meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”
Nor do we need to seek to balance these acts against Cuomo’s evident steadiness and leadership during the early days of the Covid pandemic. It stood out as exceptional because it differed so much from Trump’s. Now the Cuomo tack is under question about playing fast and loose with death reports at nursing homes.
The Trust Issue
Rather, we should see this report and Cuomo’s immediate defensive calls of bias are signs of decline in public trust.
What bothers me more than whom and how many times Cuomo touched women? He is tone-deaf both to his responsibilities to setting positive direction in government and in putting his own insistent brashness ahead of whether he can be effective in the job. It is clear from the comments even from within his own party that Cuomo has lost his leadership position and any claim to a moral pulpit.
And it is happening as the coronavirus is returning with a vengeance – a time when we need renewed faith in government that is issuing contradictory advice.
Cuomo woulda, coulda, shoulda several times before now.
- He coulda addressed Albany corruption better
- He shoulda been aware that his personal style was seen as offensive
- He mighta figured out a less embarrassing way out
But, like Trump, he insisted on beating his chest and declaring himself right amid a rising chorus of what-are-you-doing.
It seems weird that the last words have been spoken, the curtain has come down, the audience has left and this guy thinks he should still be on stage.
You bet. Pay up.