Cuomo Goes Down Like He Ruled—With Lies, Excuses, and Insults
He didn’t resign because he’s seen the light, but because he thinks doing so will allow him to return. Nevertheless, he desisted.
Andrew Cuomo engaged in one (hopefully) last little act of petty corruption on Tuesday, seating his outside counsel in front of the trappings of New York government, state seal included, to lash out cruelly with lies and mealy excuses at the women he abused and the attorney general who made the all-too-rare decision to take them seriously, before making the first truly remarkable and courageous move of his political life and announcing his resignation.
In doing so, he finally lived up to the title of his absolute failure of a memoir: All things truly are possible.
It was, and honestly remains, unimaginable. Cuomo has always been a shark, and he has played politics with the survival mindset of one: Never stop swimming.
Until now. He’ll leave the waters bloody, bodies in his wake—nearly 50,000 coronavirus deaths, including 3,800 nursing home deaths that his policies contributed to and that he tried mightily to cover up—but he’ll leave, he says.
In fourteen days. On his own terms, still. For two more weeks, Cuomo will abuse the resources of the office of the governor. If he can persuade the Assembly to call off their investigation into him, instead of speeding it up as they should, moving forward with impeachment regardless, he will be permitted to run for office again. He will collect a pension. He will carry on with his craven personal agenda, because that’s his way. To believe that Cuomo is going to fade quietly into the night, humbled and atoning, is folly.
This is a victory, to be sure, one that very few Cuomo watchers could have ever envisioned. And it is owed entirely to the bravery of women who Cuomo, and his attorney Rita Glavin, tried to smear to the very end: Charlotte Bennett. Lindsay Boylan. Ana Liss. Anna Ruch. Alyssa McGrath. Virginia Limmiatis. Brittany Commisso. Jessica Bakeman. “Kaitlin.” “Trooper 1.”
None of these women should have had to endure what they did working for, or even just coming into contact with, the governor of New York. None of them should have had to come forward and open themselves up to public spectacle to stop him from continuing to harm them and others. None of them should have had to put up with being maligned, dismissed, or gossiped about.
But they did. They made tremendous sacrifices, on a level that Andrew Cuomo and his enablers—including his brother, whose continued presence on cable news is a deeply unfunny joke—will never be able to comprehend, because they are weak and they are cowards, and they will never have the faintest clue what it means to do the right thing at great personal cost because it has become painfully, glaringly obvious that if you don’t, no one will. And even if you do, the odds are bleak.
These women came forward despite having seen the powers that be in Albany doing everything they can, over years and decades, to stop women who demand to be heard. While Cuomo suggests that his 11 accusers have somehow been playing politics, they have nothing to gain here except perhaps going to sleep at night knowing that they had done what they could to just maybe keep someone new from the governor’s harm.
I have been a harsh and fierce critic of Tish James since she allied herself with the governor when she ran for Attorney General. It seemed a craven and gutless power move, and it disappointed me greatly. I wanted boldness in that office. I wanted accountability. I wanted to believe that for once in a very, very long while, New York might be granted a top law enforcement official who would check power, rather than cozy up to it.
With their report on Cuomo, James and her staff did exactly that. They were bold while also being careful and acting with the precision required to really stop someone like Andrew Cuomo. They have much to be proud of, despite Cuomo and Glavin’s feeble attempts to undermine them. Everyone in that office has shown themselves to be a person of integrity, and also a rare figure in American law enforcement: someone who will take the reports of women seriously, and investigate them with energy and focus. District attorneys, take note. It’s possible, and it’s meaningful, and it’s what you owe your constituents.
In his self-pitying little last speech, Cuomo said one of the stupidest and also most telling things he’s uttered yet: “In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
In 2017, a group of women and men who had been abused working for state government in Albany came together as the Sexual Harassment Working Group and, entirely unpaid, successfully lobbied the state to hold public hearings and drafted new legislation that was ultimately passed, strengthening the laws protecting New York’s workers to be some of the toughest in the nation. Andrew Cuomo signed those laws, took credit for their strength and rigor, and refused to ever meet, interact with, or even acknowledge the people who actually did the work to make that happen. Those laws redrew the line.
Those laws also made it so that it legally does not matter what happened in the mind of an abuser. If Cuomo didn’t know that, four years after signing their law and claiming it as his own, that’s entirely on him. And it only proves what many of us have long known: not a single one of Cuomo’s “accomplishments” was ever earned by him, or ever mattered to him, beyond the attention he got for claiming them.
For 11 years, New Yorkers have placed their trust in a man whose greatest skill and achievement has only ever been public relations—shoving aside activists and victims and experts to grab headlines and collect praise, while doing nothing of substance to make this state the great place it could, and should be.
I hope this is truly the start of a new era in New York. I hope the Assembly shows us that, by not letting up. I hope we get to see what true accountability looks like. We owe that to the women we have let Albany chew up and spit out for far too long.