Andrew Cuomo Was Only Ever Good at Cruel Manipulation
And the very thing he and his crew delighted in so much—dehumanizing others for their own advancement and enjoyment—is the thing that brought them down.
It’s Tuesday, which means Kathy Hochul is the governor of New York and a brutal decade is at an end here.
Predictably, he opened by lashing out at Attorney General Tish James and his many accusers, whom he and his craven counsel, Rita Glavin, have smeared repeatedly, and yet ineffectually, to the bitter end. He did a lot of embarrassing whining, bragged about his self-claimed accomplishments, none of which were actually his, and lashed out at the political left with nonsense phrases that defined him as precisely as relevant as your tiresome drunk uncle at the holiday dinner table.
“You put the ‘u’ in unity,” he said straight to the camera in his pre-recorded last words, sounding more like a tedious, nonsensical drunk than a statesman.
It was an ignominious end fitting of the career his team has been desperately exalting even as their ship sinks, a truly pitiful rearranging of deck chairs that took place mostly on social media, where his top aides including Secretary Melissa De Rosa and Communications Director Rich Azzopardi stayed in character to take a few parting cheap shots.
Team Cuomo’s desperation grew to the point they spent their last hours in power amplifying an infamously misogynist reporter whose major life accomplishment is having prompted some really good jokes from others on Twitter when he tried to claim octogenarian Congresswoman Maxine Waters assaulted him.
The whole time, they have been on and on about his nearly 25 years in government, from his early days at HUD. And you know what? Let’s talk about those early days at HUD—when, according to a sort of career obituary by Ryan Teague Beckwith at Bloomberg, the inspector general appointed by the president to have oversight over the agency accused our illustrious governor in 1998 of “‘harassing and undermining’ her, telling a Senate committee that he was hostile to the idea of an independent investigator ‘not subject to his control.’”
Well, that sounds familiar. As Beckwith noted, that was simply the first (known) incident of a pattern of behavior endemic to Andrew Cuomo, the boy king, whenever he slammed up against anything that might check his power, such as the Moreland Commission he aggressively and abruptly disbanded when it stopped being a useful prop to claim ethics points and threaten his enemies with, and instead turned its sights on his office.
All Cuomo and his cohort have ever really been good at is manipulation—of people, of messages, of situations. They’ve wielded power like a cudgel or a blade, whichever suited them, and they succeeded, over and over again. Cuomo allowed the people of Hoosick Falls to drink poison water and covered it up, and faced no repercussions. The Moreland Commission? No repercussions.
And at the end, it killed them that the very thing they delighted in so much—dehumanizing others for their own advancement and enjoyment—is the thing that has brought them down. As Glavin repeatedly took to little video presentations to smear his many accusers, Cuomo repeatedly framed the allegations against him as trivial, as though the lives and livelihoods of the women he abused were just salacious gossip, not the serious work of government.
Of course, he sang a different tune when he was capitalizing on them back in 2015, when he said, “It’s not about, ‘Did the woman say no…’ It’s whether or not the woman said yes” or when Melissa DeRosa boasted that the laws they took credit for, but which were conceived of and fought for by abuse survivors they refused to acknowledge, “take direct aim at the culture of secrecy, dominance and power inequality that allowed sexual harassment to thrive.”
That’s what James’ thorough report, validating 11 women’s accounts about Gov. Cuomo, did, even as he cried that he was being railroaded into resigning.
In Glavin’s last little presentation, she lashed out at Virginia Limmiatis, one of the women who came forward to report being groped by Cuomo at a public event. Glavin showed a bunch of photos, including one that seemed very suggestive of the aftermath of precisely the interaction Limmiatis apparently described to the AG’s investigators, albeit potentially with Cuomo’s right hand instead of his left, or vice versa, who cares. The point is, Cuomo and Glavin and DeRosa and all his other enablers and collaborators are banking on the hope that there are enough narcissists out there just like them who still refuse to understand, in the year 2021, that women often grin and bear it when a bad thing happens, for survival.
That there are dozens of photos taken by someone on Team Cuomo and not one of them shows him groping anyone is not shocking, or surprising, or compelling. That the governor and his tightly controlled, tightly controlling, eternally manipulative staff kept such a tight-fisted chokehold on the throats of everyone around him for so long that none of this ever came out before does not contradict anything in the AG’s report. If anything, it bolstered the fleshed-out picture of a Machiavellian powermonger who was only ever out for himself.
We should not still be having to explain to you that sometimes, as a woman in a vulnerable position, you go along to get along. That if you were a woman who worked in government in any capacity, you probably tweeted praise of the governor, for the sake of your job and whatever it is you were tasked with trying to accomplish, knowing that nothing in this state could be accomplished for the last ten years without a vigorous stroking of the governor’s ego. Sound familiar?
“Look at these supportive tweets and smiling photos!” is meaningless in the context of a man who functioned as a hostage taker.
I have written before, over and over, about this. Other women have, too. Anyone who knows a woman knows someone who has grinned and borne a terrible thing only to go home and exhale and be grateful to have survived. Sometimes you don’t get to go home and exhale for years.
I wrote for The Daily Beast, in fact, about a man Andrew Cuomo was all too eager to show consequences for his actions—many of which were not so dissimilar from those Cuomo is accused of committing, with vastly more power behind him. It took me two years to write about Bob Freeman, the state official reporters depended on for decades to interpret New York’s laws about transparency and open records and whose own “sexually inappropriate” actions, as a state report finally found, had been an open secret.
It took me two years after that to name him—fittingly, in an essay about Democrats’ tepid defenses of Al Franken, whom some of Cuomo’s defenders are comparing the governor to. As I wrote of the interaction with Freeman that took place in broad daylight, on a busy city street: “Anyone who saw us would’ve thought everything was fine, unless they were still watching me when I turned a corner, the smile slid from my face, and I cried about the story I was about to throw out, so that I would never have to see or speak with him again.”
I have never in my life been someone anyone would describe as “soft-spoken,” and it is only in recent years that I have stopped nodding and smiling in the faces of intimidating men. It is only with concerted effort that I lately will catch myself doing so, and stop and say, “that’s not funny” or “I don’t like that” or “please don’t touch me.” And even then, there’s that “please,” those mild statements delivered gently in the hopes of not angering anyone, or even worse, humiliating a man whose insecurity teeters on the edge of violence.
And in the end, I only went on the record about Freeman because I felt responsible for the women Freeman harmed after me. That's the thing, too, about them going after Limmiatis. I cried reading the AG report when I got to her quote: "I am compelled to come forward to tell the truth,” she told investigators. “I didn't know how to report what he did to me at the time and was burdened by shame, but not coming forward now would make me complicit in his lie, and I won't do it."
Me too, Virginia.
I thought, too, of the part in Cuomo’s resignation speech where he said, “I don’t remember doing it.” That’s the galling thing, in situations of abuse, especially abuse of power, which all abuse is in some way. The powerful person gets to walk away. The ones they harm are left to remember. Cuomo may have acted inappropriately, cruelly, horribly, as a rule, and forgotten it immediately.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the one honest thing he’s ever said. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Cuomo’s supporters are, plainly, deranged. Their social media posts read like some of the most unhinged fan mail you’ve ever seen. These people—all apparently adult women far past their 20s—spend their time online trawling the Venmo of Charlotte Bennett, and then harassing the 25-year-old about jokes she made with friends. This is the target audience for Cuomo and Glavin’s smear campaign.
Unfortunately for them, this small minority of wackos appear to be the only people still falling prey to Team Cuomo’s once-master manipulations. For the rest of us, the truth is finally out—and so is Cuomo.
Here is the real legacy of Andrew Cuomo, paragon pandemic leader: According to a new report by the state comptroller, through June 2021, New York was the only state that didn’t distribute any emergency rental assistance. The state commissioner responsible for overseeing those funds testified in an Assembly hearing that he’s never spoken to the governor about the program.
Andrew Cuomo doesn’t care about renters, or about people who need assistance. He never did. All he ever cared about was himself, and other powerful people he could control and benefit from. And now it’s the New Yorkers who were harmed by Andrew Cuomo who will be left to remember his true legacy.