By: Nikita Vandrangi — Political Editor
In December of 2020, Lindsey Boylan, a former aide of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, accused the governor of sexual harassment on Twitter.
“I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years,” Boyland wrote.
In February of 2021, Boylan wrote an article in which she described her accusations in depth.
Boylan detailed accounts of her relationship with Cuomo as an aide. Boylan
noted the tense environment created for women in the workplace, stating that the governor would send female staffers roses on Valentine’s day or make comments about their weight and relationships.
“They were not-so-subtle reminders of the governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him,” said Boylan.
Boylan was told she looked like a rumored ex-girlfriend of the governor, Lisa Shields. The governor claimed they looked like sisters, saying she was the better-looking sister and often calling Boylan “Lisa.” When Cuomo and Boylan were alone in his office, he made a comment insinuating the affair between Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton. On a jet ride home from an event in Western New York, the governor jokingly asked Boylan to play strip poker.
After a meeting, Cuomo stepped in front of Boylan as she was leaving and kissed her on the lips.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,” Boylan said.
Boylan additionally says that Cuomo’s inner circle of staff largely ignored and reprimanded her if she spoke up. “And if you dared speak up, you would face consequences,” added Boylan.
It is widely known that Cuomo harbors a toxic and problematic work environment, specifically for women.
The women feel compelled to wear dresses, makeup, and heels because it’s what the governor likes. They are often assigned work not based on merits but based on who the governor and his staff liked personally. Additionally, they are pitted against each other in competition. One instance being an annual holiday party at the governor’s mansion where a couple of female aides are invited. The women have expressed fear of speaking out because the governor’s staff was known to retaliate.
Former aide and current New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi says, “If you are a woman who wants to focus on work, it is the worst place to be,” when referring to working in the executive chamber of the governor.
After Boylan, Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, joined her in accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment in February.
Bennett, who is a sexual assault survivor, says that over the course of her employment the governor had inquired about her sex life, her opinion on monogamy, whether she would have sex with older men, and if she believed an age difference mattered. She added that Cuomo expressed his openness to having relationships with women in their 20s, the same age as Bennett.
“I understood that the government wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared. And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job,” said Bennett.
Bennett informed Cuomo’s chief of staff about her interactions with the governor and was transferred to a different position. She did not insist on an investigation, citing that she wanted to move on.
Cuomo denied intending to make Bennett uncomfortable, however, he did not deny that he asked her those questions.
In March, the Times Union reported another female aide coming forward with allegations against Cuomo.
The aide, who has stayed anonymous, alleged that the governor had reached under her blouse and touched her inappropriately when they were alone. She says that she had gone to the governor’s mansion on the pretense that she would help the governor with an issue on his phone. Additionally, the aide said it was not the first time such an incident occurred and that the governor had acted flirtatiously towards her before.
Shortly after, Alyssa McGrath, another female aide, came forward with allegations against the governor.
McGrath says that Cuomo called her and another female co-worker “mingle mamas” after they were scheduled to go on a trip to Florida (before the pandemic). Both women single, he inquired if they were going to mingle with men while there.
Additionally, the governor asked about the status of McGrath’s divorce and her lack of a wedding ring. He commented on a necklace of McGrath, which was noticeably tucked into her shirt. He called her beautiful in Italian, though not the common Italian phrase “ciao bella.” McGrath is of Italian descent but does not speak the language, and she asked her parents for the meaning of the governor’s comment.
McGrath says that Cuomo maintained a flirty banter with not only her but all of her female co-workers in the office. “He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you’re his friend. But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation, in your head going, ‘I can’t believe I just had that interaction with the governor of New York,’” she said.
McGrath echoed the sentiments about competition in the workplace, citing that Cuomo even played favorites among the women. “We were told from the beginning that was a typical move of his. Who was the girl of the week? Who was the girl of the month?” McGrath added.
Cuomo’s lawyer Rita Glavin says, “None of this is remarkable, although it may be old fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James appointed Joon H. Kim, former acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne L. Clark, an employment discrimination lawyer, to head the investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s allegations.
The New York State Assembly also opened an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo. The judiciary committee has been given full discretion to investigate the sexual harassment allegations as well as the mishandling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. 59 Democratic state legislators have signed a statement calling for Cuomo’s resignation.
In response, Cuomo says, “I am not going to speak to the specifics of this or any other allegation given the ongoing review, but I am confident in the result of the attorney general’s report.”
“Let the attorney general do her job. She’s very good, she’s very competent, and that will be due process and then we’ll have the facts,” said Cuomo.