Hoo Boy: New York Senate Leader, Additional Democrats Call on Cuomo to Resign

Posted: Mar 08, 2021 10:25 AM
Hoo Boy: New York Senate Leader, Additional Democrats Call on Cuomo to Resign

Source: Office of the NY Governor via AP

The water is getting hotter for scandal-plagued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who continues to defiantly insist that he will not step down.  Late last week, the leader of the state's Democrat-controlled Senate voiced the somewhat bizarre view that if one more sexual harassment allegation were to emerge, she'd call for him to resign.  It's unclear why 'only' two or three accusers wasn't sufficient on that score, but that's the line she chose to draw.  Sure enough, two more women stepped forward with complaints about the governor's conduct.  The New York Post summarizes the latest shoes to drop:

Two more women came forward Saturday to accuse Gov. Cuomo of sexually harassing behavior, including a former press aide who describes struggling to free herself from his repeated hugs, and a young assistant who now says he left her feeling like “just a skirt.” Former press aide Karen Hinton endured a “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate” embrace from Cuomo in a dimly lit Los Angeles hotel room in December 2000, she told the Washington Post. The married Hinton pulled away, but “he pulls me back for another intimate embrace,” she told the paper. “I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave.”... The other new accuser, Ana Liss, a policy and operations aide who worked for the governor from 2013 to 2015, said he’d behaved inappropriately while on the job in Albany. The governor called her “sweetheart” and asked if she had a boyfriend, Liss recalled to the Wall Street Journal. Liss said Cuomo touched her on her lower back during an event, once kissed her hand and asked her if she was dating.

On the scale of #MeToo allegations, this is relatively low-level stuff (I argued last week that the third accuser had even less of a case), but the Senate majority leader in Albany hadn't specified anything beyond any additional allegations being her breaking point. And thus the hammer came down on Sunday afternoon:

Hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to resign amid new allegations of inappropriate behavior, a group of the state's top Democratic lawmakers questioned his ability to lead the state. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called on Cuomo, also a Democrat, to resign and said in a statement that the allegations he faces are "drawing away from the business of government." "We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project," she said. "New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it," she continued. "We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign." State Sen. Liz Krueger, a prominent Manhattan Democrat, also urged Cuomo to step down, saying, "Our state is rightly crying out for truthful, transparent government. The people's business is too pressing to continue to be derailed in this way." Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not explicitly call for Cuomo to step down but said he shares Stewart-Cousins' "sentiment" about "the governor's ability to continue to lead this state."

One explicit call for Cuomo's resignation, and an effective concurrence, from the state's two Democratic legislative leaders.  Much of the pile-on is related to the sexual allegations, as opposed to the far bigger scandal -- which is understandably infuriating to the families victimized by the governor's lethal nursing homes policy and subsequent cover-up:

Stewart-Cousins at least referenced the COVID scandal in her statement, as well she should have.  That outrage got worse last Friday, of course, based on this revelation from the New York Times:

Top aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were alarmed: A report written by state health officials had just landed, and it included a count of how many nursing home residents in New York had died in the pandemic. The number — more than 9,000 by that point in June — was not public, and the governor’s most senior aides wanted to keep it that way. They rewrote the report to take it out, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times. The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths...Mr. Cuomo and his aides actually began concealing the numbers months earlier, as his aides were battling their own top health officials, and well before requests for data arrived from federal authorities, according to documents and interviews with six people with direct knowledge of the discussions...The central role played by the governor’s top aides reflected the lengths to which Mr. Cuomo has gone in the middle of a deadly pandemic to control data, brush aside public health expertise and bolster his position as a national leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

I'll repeat: This, right here, is the scandal.  Even their terrible, inexcusable justification for hiding the true data is a lie.  The timeline they've peddled was a lie.  They were hiding the real numbers months earlier than claimed, as Cuomo was writing his garbage book about his own greatness.  The conflict between the political aides and senior public health officials was so pitched that it fueled a string of departures among the latter group.  In some ways, it's astounding that this scandal didn't detonate sooner.  But national Democrats had an incentive to help protect Cuomo leading up to the election, and most of the news media had jumped face-first into the tank for Cuomo and were deeply invested in the 'COVID wizard' narrative.  That's an awful lot to overcome.  But the facts here are so horrific that the dam was going to burst at some point.  The inevitable moment has finally arrived.  But belatedly unsparing media scrutiny, coupled with calls for resignations from high-ranking Democrats, may not be enough to dislodge this governor.  Recall that Virginia's Ralph Northam endured a huge racial firestorm, including big league demands for him to leave his job, by basically putting his head down and waiting it out.

Cuomo seems very much inclined to do the same thing, based on his comments and his overall arrogant shamelessness.  He's not going anywhere unless he's forced out -- whether by elected Democrats, or by voters.  Do Albany Democrats actually have the juice and fortitude to follow-through with an impeachment?  It's one thing to put out statements asking for Cuomo to defenestrate himself.  It's another matter altogether to actively toss your own party's governor out of office against his will.  Also interesting is Cuomo's, shall we say...evolving views on resignations based on allegations (recalling, of course, that the nursing home disgrace is not a mere allegation; it's an established fact):

Embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday doubled down in defending himself against calls for his resignation, saying that quitting would be “antidemocratic.” ...  Cuomo’s insistence on due process contrasts significantly with his tone shortly after a 2018 New Yorker article detailed former Attorney General Eric Scheiderman’s alleged mistreatment of women in his personal life. At the time, the governor urged him to step down “for the good of the office,” which he did soon thereafter. “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 as Attorney General,” Cuomo said.

It's all a bit different when you're the one in the crosshairs, eh, gov?  I'll leave you with the Times Union editorializing in favor of Cuomo's resignation.