Hero turned villain?: Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of sexual harassment


Photo Courtesy/ YouTube Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Over the past week, three young women, including two former state employees, have come forward accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. These claims are now being looked into as part of an independent investigation by the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James. 

Although countless lawmakers and politicians have condemned the governor, calling for an impartial investigation into these allegations, Cuomo has only minimized the accusations against him. And, yet again, we must witness a battle between powerful figures and those who are brave enough to speak out. 

Lindsey Boylan, 36, was the first to make her story public, claiming in a detailed accusation that Cuomo made countless sexual advances towards her, dating back to 2017. These encounters with Cuomo included unwanted touching, inappropriate conversations and even one instance of him kissing her on the lips against her will. 

Charlotte Bennett, 25, came forward a couple days later and said that in June of last year Cuomo asked her about her sex life, asking whether she was monogamous, and if she had ever had sex with an older man (Cuomo is 63). If these accusations weren’t already bad enough, a third claim was made against him by Anna Ruch, 33. She met Cuomo at a wedding in 2019 and explained that during a conversation he placed his hand on her lower back, and after she removed it he put his hand on her cheek and asked if he could kiss her. 

Cuomo has denied ever acting inappropriately with these women, stating that he only made “playful jokes” that teased employees in what he believed to be “a good-natured way.” While addressing the issues publicly, Cuomo apologized for his actions, saying: “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable, it was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” 

When asked about the incident with Ruch, he said that hugging and kissing was his “usual and customary way of greeting.” 

Cuomo’s responses to these claims were not only unsympathetic, but also weak enough for many to challenge his credibility and his position in office. Many elected officials, including members of New York’s congressional delegation (both Democratic and Republican) are demanding that this matter be taken seriously and that a truly independent investigation be conducted. Some argued that he should leave office, but Cuomo has refused to resign. 

If these allegations are true, they represent a clear abuse of power, and it is no surprise that Cuomo is not taking them seriously. Cuomo is currently serving his third term in office and he has always been admired and praised for his guidance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, so his power and prestige may be enough for him to make America turn a blind eye to win his fourth term. He acted as a strong leader who was able to calm the nerves of many Americans during the pandemic, even winning an Emmy for his skillful use of television and clever speeches. To many, he was America’s hero, and this scandal is the exact opposite of what people, including myself, saw in him and expected. But those times are over and we need to wake up.

These allegations speak to issues that happen in the workplace on a daily basis. These women were brave enough to speak up against a man with immense power, and their voices are important. These accusations must be taken seriously and, as a society, we need to support those who are willing to publicly talk about their pain, even if someone of a higher status is involved. To think that these actions are harmless is to feed into a culture in which we believe it is okay for men or other people in authoritative positions to victimize others. So, let’s not victim-blame this time, but, instead, support and praise those courageous enough to end their silence.