After months of denial and defiance, and as late as yesterday—Cuomo suddenly resigned.
You don’t need to be a political analysist to guess that he did so because he finally realized how untenable was his position now that he has lost all his allies and support. As they say, optics is everything in politics: if it looks bad, it is bad; if you look guilty, you are guilty—at least in the media and the public’s mind. What’s more, in today’s political climate the public doesn’t forgive easily. In the last decade or less we have seen too much dishonesty, opportunism and skullduggery to remain indifferent. Perhaps he felt invulnerable because of being part of what political expert David Axelrod has called the “Cuomo political franchise.” A Cuomo has governed New York State for 28 out of the last 34 years. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have a brother, Chris, as the most popular political talk show host on CNN trumpeting his accomplishments while keeping silent on the controversies.
And so, Cuomo resigned today, but as I listened to his resignation speech it became obvious that he is still defiant and still oblivious to the gravity of the situation and the radical ways in which the cultural climate has changed in the #MeToo era. He is still claiming that he never intentionally disrespected any woman, that his hugs and kisses were only meant to be an expression of kindness and friendship. We really must ask: are we meant to believe that excuse even when he groped a woman’s breast or buttock? Just a friendly gesture?
I’m not here to pronounce Cuomo guilty or innocent. I wasn’t part of the investigation, but I do know that a thorough investigation was carried out and that, according to the report resulting from it, they found a mountain of evidence that was deemed to be more than credible enough so the State leadership abandoned Cuomo to his fate if he did not resign: impeachment. Even President Biden weighed in and suggested that Cuomo should resign.
To be fair, we must admit that Cuomo has accomplished a great many things for New York State in his tenure as Governor. The three most important have been called a historic trifecta: he led a solid economic recovery, signed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage and put a cap on local property taxes. In addition, he raised the minimum wage; all these are considered socially progressive and make the lives of many people better. Kudos to him.
The most praiseworthy of his accomplishments was his Covid management. Even as someone who has always been skeptical and less than enamored of the Cuomos and their stranglehold on New York politics, I became a fan of his during the pandemic. He did a wonderful job of communicating the reality of it and enforcing mitigating measures. Because of that I even tried to rationalize his misrepresentation of the number of Covid deaths in the nursing homes. And then I tried to overlook his misappropriation of resources—both financial and human—when he wrote his book congratulating himself on his accomplishments. At one point he certainly was a political rock star with his eye on the presidency. But that was then and this is now.
The arrogance of the man has culminated in today’s resignation speech. Not only because he remains defiant, but in my opinion the low point of this speech was when he unashamedly dragged his daughters into the muck in order to play the sympathy card.
To say that he has lived the experience with them and through them, that he has sat on the couch and listened to the “ugly accusations…I have seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces, and it hurt…” once again proves the utter lack of sensitivity to sexism and the total disconnect from his daughters’ generation. Did it bruise his ego to see their disappointment, or did it hurt them that they still live in a world where people like their dad do these things? It’s the same blindness that allows him to claim that what is today perceived as sexual harassment is merely an expression of “affection”. His daughters deserved better; leave them out of it. I wonder if they were cringing as much as I was when they heard such weak protestations of innocence. His daughters would have to be not only loyal and loving in order to believe such nonsense, but they’d have to be blind and deaf as well, given the evidence that has piled up against their father.
Cuomo had presented himself as the leading advocate of gender rights. He signed legislation that strengthened laws against sexual harassment and clarified the definition of such abuse. Ironically, it is this same clarity that has now made it difficult and hypocritical for him to declare that what he did was not sexual harassment. Was he not the one who shed light on the subject and made it harder to claim ignorance? Or innocence? When Cuomo signed the legislation, almost two years ago to the day, on August 12, 2019, he proudly declared: “Let’s honor all the women who have endured this humiliation…Let’s honor the women who have had the courage to come forward to tell their stories – and let’s actually change things.”
Apparently, the hypocrisy was baked into Cuomo, for just the following day, on August 13, the woman officer that he had hand-picked to be part of his security detail–who has come to be known as Trooper #1 in the current investigation—felt “completely violated” by his “flirtatious and creepy behavior” and to add insult to injury, she was warned by her superior that what happened in the exchange with Cuomo “stays in the truck”.
Worse is that just recently, when the investigation was heating up, Cuomo resorted to the classic ploy of the sexual harasser and conspired with Roberta Kaplan, the Time’s Up chairwoman and co-founder of its legal defense fund, to discredit the accusers, principally Lindsey Boylan.
So, for this man to address his daughters in his resignation speech—the young women whom he calls “his jewels” — and fervently try to make excuses that he has made mistakes, that it’s still a man’s world, or that “we have sexism that is culturalized and institutionalized,” simply doesn’t cut it. Unless his daughters are completely blind and deaf then they, like others in their generation, can see, plain as day, that their father is a sexual harasser and a hypocrite who exploited them even in his resignation speech by pandering for sympathy.
If he truly does engage in this behavior with everyone, as he has claimed repeatedly, then he’s even more out of touch with 2021 than we believed. Andrew Cuomo, “Time’s Up!”.