A day after a former aide accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, several New York lawmakers said her allegations must be taken seriously and called for an investigation.
During a press availability on Thursday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio — who’s often had an antagonistic relationship with the governor — called the accusations against Cuomo “disturbing.”
“When a woman comes forward with this kind of very specific allegation, they have to be taken seriously,” de Blasio said. “We need a full and independent investigation.”
On Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who previously worked in the Cuomo administration, made detailed accusations of sexual harassment against the governor in a Medium post, saying he repeatedly made inappropriate comments and advances and once gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips as she was exiting a meeting. Boylan, who is now running for Manhattan borough president, wrote on Twitter in December that Cuomo “sexually harassed me for years,” but she declined to elaborate at the time.
Cuomo issued a statement on Wednesday denying the allegations. “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Caitlin Girouard.
U.S. representative Elise Stefanik shared Boylan’s post on Twitter and released a statement Wednesday calling Cuomo a “criminal sexual predator.”
“Sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace is not a political issue, it is about right and wrong. Governor Cuomo must immediately resign,” Stefanik, a Republican, wrote.
Democratic assemblyman Ron Kim, who recently accused Cuomo of threatening him in a phone call after he criticized his handling of the COVID-19 nursing-home crisis, also announced his support for Boylan.
“Cuomo is a coward who has abused his powers. His pattern of abuse and harassment toward his aides, journalists, lawmakers, and critiques is despicable. As a lawmaker, I have the duty to hold him accountable,” Kim said in a tweet.
During a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the accusations against Cuomo ahead of a planned meeting between President Biden and the National Governors Association. Cuomo is currently the chair of the association.
“The president has been consistent in his position. When a person comes forward, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Their voice should be heard, not silenced. And any allegation should be reviewed,” Psaki said.
Despite these public calls for a probe into Cuomo’s alleged behavior, it’s unclear where things go from here.
The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics is the primary body tasked with such investigations, but it is widely considered toothless, as it is stacked with Cuomo appointees.
Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former political candidate, is advocating for the state attorney general’s office to be granted the power to investigate sexual misconduct in government.
In a series of tweets responding to Boylan’s accusation, Teachout called for a “standing referral” to be given to the office and said JCOPE is “more of an insider protection plan” than an investigative agency.
John Kaehny, the executive director of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany, told New York Focus that legislative committees in the statehouse could potentially investigate Cuomo’s actions, though that route has pitfalls as well.
“That would probably create a constitutional crisis,” Kaehny said. “If the governor just said no and said, ‘I’m invoking executive privilege,’ it could be tied up in the courts for a while. And by the way, the chief justice is appointed by the governor.”
In light of the new allegations against Cuomo and the worsening nursing-home scandal, a recent job listing caught the attention of many. It seems the Office of the Governor is in need of a senior communications official to handle “messaging.” The post describes the job as an “immediate opening.”