Andrew Cuomo: Nine Allegations, but Still in Office

Content warning: mentions and description of sexual harassment

 

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, quite literally went from hero to zero in a matter of a few weeks. Praised for his work getting COVID-19 under control in New York, Cuomo soon lost much of his admiration after news released that his administration had lied about nursing home deaths in the pandemic. Then, women started coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment. There are now nine women who have made allegations-- and Cuomo is still in office. 

Each of the women besides one worked under Cuomo, their positions from assistant to policy adviser to reporter. Some of the harassment and motions he made against these women include touching them in intimate ways, such as on the lower back or legs, asking them about their sex lives, grasping their faces and kissing them (or almost kissing them), gripping them, and even groping them. 

Following the seventh allegation by an unnamed woman, Cuomo issued a public statement-- essentially an excuse, a non-apology. He stated that, “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.” He also explicitly stated that he never touched anyone inappropriately, which essentially denied many of women’s allegations. 

Vlad Tchompalov Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash

An impeachment inquiry was opened up, but it could take months for it to close. Twelve of the nineteen House Democrats from New York have called on Cuomo to resign. 

During this period of allegations against Cuomo, many have compared him to Republican politicians who have faced allegations and haven’t been ousted from their positions. With many Republican politicians, including former president Trump, few members of the party would call on their resignation or impeachment from office due to sexual assault or harassment allegations. The difference with Cuomo is that Democrats themselves are calling for Cuomo to resign. If they wouldn’t accept it with the opposing party, why should they allow it in their own party?

Still, Cuomo’s sexual assault allegations show us a pattern among men who are accused: an excuse, often one trying to explain humor-- even “locker room talk.” The harassment against these women, by any politician, or by any abuser, is one that they explain through their personality-- “I like joking” or “I thought everyone was comfortable.” This is a tale as old as time, it’s something that many men use as an excuse to justify their actions. 

woman holding up me too sign Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Still, even if it is “just joking,” it reflects why we as a society think it’s okay to make inappropriate comments as jokes toward women. Why should it be okay to ask a woman about her sex life? To touch her inappropriately? To make passes at them? Our society has excused these types of “jokes” for a long time-- it’s part of a twisted culture. We know by this point that the power imbalance makes it possible to harass women, yet the culture itself is a problem, and women are the ones who have to face the consequences of it-- not the men who hurt them. The system doesn’t hold them accountable, take away their success, their power, or their positions. It only enables them.