DISAPPOINTED. Betrayed. Angry. These are a few of the emotions that I feel as a woman, as an American citizen, and as a registered Democrat.
When the news about sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hit the headlines early this year, I thought it could have been politically motivated especially because Cuomo was among those state officials who shepherd the country as we call navigated our way to understand and join our fight against COVID-19 since 2020, given former President Donald Trump’s failure of leadership in handling the pandemic.
Cuomo was very effective in communicating with the American public about the coronavirus pandemic in his daily briefing last year and what should be done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and save more lives . His rhetoric was coupled with results — the strict public health safety measures he implemented helped New York move from being the hotspot of the infection to flattening the curve and eventually being in the position to start opening the state again from the lockdowns.
Cuomo denied all allegations, but the truth has a way of eventually coming out, especially when the probe for the truth is done independently without cover-up and intimidation, just a commitment to justice regardless of who is being investigated.
On Tuesday, August 3, the investigators found that “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former government workers, breaking state and federal laws and engaging in a pattern of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments, according to a report from the New York State attorney general, Letitia James,” the New York Times reported.
Perhaps like me, you were glued to the television news, and were appalled by the details of the results of the investigation, as discussed in the 165-page report. “The investigators said 11 women had accused Mr. Cuomo of a range of inappropriate behavior; nine of them are current or former state employees, they said. Investigators said they interviewed 179 witnesses and collected tens of thousands of documents to corroborate the claims,” according to the reporting of the Times.
“Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, and his aides cultivated a toxic work culture in his office that was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment,” the report stated.
The report included at least two previously unreported allegations of sexual harassment from women who accused Mr. Cuomo of improperly touching them, including an unnamed female state trooper and an employee of an energy company. And it highlighted at least one instance in which Mr. Cuomo and his aides retaliated against a woman who made her allegations public.
“Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws,” Ms. James said. “The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.”
Ms. James said the report revealed “a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture” and “conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government.”
Shortly after the press conference reporting on the results of the investigation, Governor Cuomo went on national television to again deny the accusations further, saying “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
He added, “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”
He even displayed slides of his pictures showing him hugging, kissing people, men and women alike, the young and the old, explaining he has a tendency to hug or kiss people on the cheek, gestures he described as “meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”
No signs of him resigning in that pre-recorded message, instead he continues to say he wouldn’t allow this to distract him from continuing to serve the people of New York, especially in light of the new threats from the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Cuomo’s camp previously accused the investigation, through which he was also given the opportunity to be interviewed by the investigators, was politically motivated because they alleged that Attorney General Leticia James wants Cuomo’s job.
However, James surrounded herself with honorable legal experts who do not have any personal stake in the investigation, other than to seek and reveal the truth.
As the Times reported: “The investigation was conducted by two outside lawyers hired by Ms. James: Joon H. Kim, a former top federal prosecutor, and Anne L. Clark, a well-known employment lawyer.”
Mr. Kim said during the press conference that their investigation revealed “a pattern” of behavior from Mr. Cuomo and found that the culture within the executive chamber “contributed to conditions that allowed the governor’s sexually harassing conduct to occur and to persist.”
“It was a culture where you could not say no to the governor and if you upset him or his senior staff you would be written off, cast aside or worse,” Mr. Kim said in the Times report. “But at the same time, the witnesses described a culture that normalized and overlooked everyday flirtations, physical intimacy and inappropriate comments by the governor.”
President Joe Biden responded to a question during his own press briefing on COVID-19, affirming what he previously stated — that Cuomo should resign and face prosecution if investigations confirm sexual harassment allegations against him.
What’s next for Cuomo given these findings? “The findings of the report could also fuel support for impeachment proceedings against Mr. Cuomo in the State Legislature, which Democrats overwhelmingly control, and influence public opinion as he considers running for a fourth term. Outside lawyers hired by the Assembly’s judiciary committee are currently looking at not only the sexual harassment claims, but a series of scandals with a common theme: whether or not Mr. Cuomo abused his power while in office,” the Times further reported.
This culture of abuse and sexual harassment will be perpetuated without women willing to courageously come out and speak out their TRUTH despite the intimidation of people in power. It’s about time to we make elected efficials and people in power become accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Character, the commitment to the truth, faithfulness to the rule of law, and the soul for true public service will always be most important in leadership.
Cuomo failed us. He has to go.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.