Flannery Amdahl’s memories of working for Andrew Cuomo are starkly at odds with the rock star status the New York governor enjoyed last year.
“People were talking all the time about how they yelled, scold and belittled people,” says Amdahl, 37, who describes the governor’s office as the most toxic and abusive place he has ever worked.
“His staff members copied that behavior and I felt like my supervisor treated me that way. I think it was rampant and well known – everyone in Albany talks about how disgusting the camera is. “
As Cuomo goes from hero to zero, those complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. He is charged with covering up the number of coronavirus deaths in state nursing homes. Amdahl, a former labor policy adviser, thinks he should resign just for this. But it is the other scandal consuming the three-term governor that offers particularly treacherous terrain for national Democrats.
Four women have come forward to accuse Cuomo, 63, of sexual harassment. Charlotte Bennett, 25, a former aide, told CBS that during a one-on-one meeting last June, Cuomo’s questions led her to conclude that “the governor is trying to sleep with me.”
Another former assistant, Ana Lis, 35, made accusations Saturday night, tell the Wall Street Journal Cuomo “asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her girlfriend, touched her small back … and once kissed her hand when she got up from her desk.”
Before Lis introduced herself, Cuomo apologized for comments that made any of the women uncomfortable by denying inappropriate contact. Although an independent investigation is underway, he faces calls for his resignation from Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, Democrat and Elise Stefanik, Republicanas well as Democratic state officials.
But no other National Democrat has joined the chorus. The Axios website called it a party “Moment of hypocrisy”, arguing: “Governor Andrew Cuomo should face explicit calls to resign from President Biden down, if he applies the standard that Democrats set for similar accusations against Republicans. And it is not a close decision. “
The double standard charge points to a steep learning curve for a party that has struggled to keep up with changing public attitudes towards gender roles, power dynamics and sexual boundaries.
His hierarchy defended Bill Clinton for his inappropriate relationship with young intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s. But in 2017, when the #MeToo movement held powerful men accountable, Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator who holds Hillary Clinton’s former New York seat, argued that the former president I should have resigned over the matter.
That same year, Gillibrand became the first Democratic senator to ask her Minnesota colleague, Al Franken, to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. She was joined by others, including Kamala Harris, who tweeted: “No one should allow sexual harassment and misconduct and it shouldn’t happen anywhere. I think the best thing Senator Franken can do is resign. “
Franken did just that, but some critics now believe that he was the victim of a rush to pass judgment and that he should have been allowed to await the results of an investigation.
This time, although Gillibrand said that Cuomo’s alleged conduct was “Completely unacceptable”, she stopped short of demanding that he resign before the investigation was concluded. It’s a position shared by the other New York senator, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Joe Biden and Harris, now vice president.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, told reporters on Friday: “The opinion of the vice president is that she believes that all women should be treated with respect. Their voices must be heard. They should tell their story. There is an independent investigation going on now, overseen by the New York attorney general, and she certainly supports it. “
But this puts Democratic leaders out of step with groups like March of the women, which was born out of the January 2017 protests against Donald Trump, who faced numerous accusations of sexual assault and stalking and was caught on video bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia.
Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, said: “Any man who makes women feel unsafe at work should quit. That is our general position on workplace bullying.
“We share the view that there should be an independent investigation, but Cuomo himself has not even denied many of the allegations of harassment and, for us, this is disqualifying behavior. It could be illegal, but it couldn’t be illegal either. “
Carmona urged the governor to take responsibility for his actions.
“Cuomo should be the person who is talking about this and the responsibility for his personal behavior should not fall on other people. However, the Democratic Party needs to set the standard here because women have been very poorly served, certainly in the last four years, and of course before. “
‘Sensitivities have changed’
Just like him instant deification Then the instant demonization of Cuomo has left many clamoring for nuance and complexity, so it can be said that no two cases of sexual harassment in politics are the same.
Sometimes indictments are decades old and before the defendant took office. In Cuomo’s case, they are much more recent, implying that the governor ignored the lessons of #MeToo. Sometimes the statements were related to inappropriate touches or comments. Others involve rape or other forms of violence.
In 2018, Eric Schneiderman, a New York attorney general hailed as a liberal advocate for women’s rights, resigned after being accused of physically abusing four women. Cuomo was one of those who was quick to ask him to resign.
Later that year, Trump’s supreme court candidate Brett Kavanaugh came close to derailing over accusations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both teenagers. Harris, then a member of the Senate judicial committee, was praised by her fellow Democrats for questioning the judge during a bitter political fight.
In 2019, several women accused Biden of making unwanted physical contact. For example, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, recalled a 2014 meeting in which he touched her shoulders, leaned in to smell her hair, and kissed the back of her neck. He launched a video message that promised: “The limits of personal space protection have been reestablished. I get it.”
The parallels were unmissable this week when Cuomo, whom Anna Ruch alleges He put his hands on her cheeks and asked to kiss her at a wedding in 2019, explained that he often greets people with a hug and a kiss, a habit acquired from his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo.
“I understand that sensitivities have changed,” he told reporters. “The behavior has changed. I understand it and I’m going to learn from it. “
Last year, Tara Reade, a former Senate staff member, alleged that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. He vehemently denied the claim, which remained baseless and faded from the electoral race. Biden chose a woman, Harris, as his running mate and often highlighted her work as a lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act.
His fate was very different from that of Franken, once considered a presidential candidate.
Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “In retrospect, several Democrats in the Senate who pressured him to resign later expressed regret. They realized that they were moving too fast, they didn’t know enough, and that the punishment didn’t really fit what they later learned was misbehavior. “
Jacobs added: “There is a learning curve and it is as much about understanding what happened as it is about not being intimidated by Republicans who refuse to play on the appearance of decency. Do you remember Kavanaugh? They wouldn’t even investigate it and instead you had [Senator] Lindsey Graham yelling at the committee.
“I don’t think the Republican Party is in a position to lecture anyone on how to handle sexual harassment. They seem to have gained real experience on how to avoid it. “
Cuomo, who was Secretary of Housing during the Bill Clinton administration and gave briefings on the Emmy Award-winning Covid-19 last year, has long been known to New Yorkers for his hard-hitting, boxing, old-school style. . As he fights for his political life, if he does not resign, running for a fourth term may become unsustainable, activists hope that not only politicians but society at large will learn broader lessons.
Emily May, Co-Founder and CEO of Hollaback !, a global movement to combat bullying, said: “As a society, we must move the conversation away from just looking at these high-profile people who create harm and really start to see the ways that harm is part of the everyday water that swims in.
“The fact that we fired Andrew Cuomo, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein does not solve the problem by itself. The biggest problem is still there, and that is bullying is considered an acceptable part of our culture. That is why many of these people in power are doing it. So yes, we must respond and eliminate bullying wherever it is found, but we must also keep an eye on the ball. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism