Three women have accused New York’s Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. The complaints center largely around unsolicited shows of affection.
He very well may have said the inappropriate things being reported, but none of the women were physically harmed by what was at most unwanted flirtation. You have to ask: What will these displays of fragility do to the women’s careers? Little that’s good, unless they plan to seek tenure in a department of gender studies.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me,” said Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, “and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.” A grown woman getting “scared” by a come-on? From a New Yorker, no less?
Wanting the world to know of her torment, Bennett made herself available to the media, done up in cat-eye makeup. Basically, that involves a vixenish wing of eyeliner swooshing to the outer corner.
Is your writer implying that Bennett somehow “asked for it”? She is not, because “it” never happened. It’s possible that Cuomo was propositioning her — and if he was, he shouldn’t have. But Bennett emerged from the ordeal untouched.
Next up is Lindsey Boylan, another of the governor’s aides. She accused him of kissing her on the lips as she was about to leave his office. “I was in shock,” she wrote, “but I kept walking.” At least she didn’t call 911.
Boylan also took great exception to Cuomo’s alleged invitation to play strip poker while they were flying on a plane full of government officials. She might consider that he was joshing.
Cuomo’s office is denying most of this, and his former aide Ashley Cotton came to his defense. “He can be funny, he can make lousy jokes,” she said. “But I have never known him to cross the line.”
Up to now, Boylan was an obscure candidate for Manhattan borough president. Obscure no more, but does she think this offended-dignity act is going to get her elected? Bad things happen in Manhattan, things far worse than stolen kisses.
Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, not an instrument of male domination in a patriarchal society. Or, in language sociologists might understand, it’s “a cultural construct.” Manhattan is home to a zillion cultures, each with its views and customs on kissing.
Which brings us to accuser No. 3. Anna Ruch complained that at a New York City wedding reception in 2019, Cuomo put his hands on her face, said, “Can I kiss you?” and proceeded to kiss her on the cheek.
“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch said.
Small wonder. Imagine an Italian kissing people at a wedding party.
The tabloids at least are having fun. “Quit It, Andy,” said the New York Daily News front page, noting that the lefty Working Families Party is demanding Cuomo resign and end his “reign of fear.”
On the right, Long Island Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin says Cuomo is guilty of “bullying, abuse and harassment.” Also, he may run against Cuomo in 2022.
The New York Post had “Handsy Andy” with a picture of the governor holding Ruch’s face. Under that was “Look of fear as Cuomo ‘gave unwanted kiss’: Third accuser.”
Needless to say, The New York Times is treating these stories with utmost solemnity. Its readers’ comments, meanwhile, overflow with eye-rolling. Many regard Cuomo as the savvy politician needed to lead the state out of its economic crisis. Some people care about those things.
Let’s end with another of Cuomo’s “inappropriate gestures,” as recounted by Boylan: “He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine’s Day and arranged to have one delivered to me, the only one on my floor.”
And she thinks she can run Manhattan?
Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop.