Andrew Cuomo Sexual Assault Case – Why is it Important?

Andrew Cuomo Sexual Assault Case – Why is it Important?

Andrew Cuomo had stood as the Governor of New York since 2011, during which he became a notably strong Democrat, especially in opposition to Trump’s Covid policy. However, during August, news emerged that an inquiry into sexual assault allegations filed against Cuomo indicated that there had been wrongdoing. Andrew Cuomo resigned on 23 August 2021, following backlash from fellow Democrats, with a now tarnished political reputation. Initially, this seems a standard case of politicians behaving badly, which became the norm following the election of Trump as President in 2016. Nonetheless, the incidents Cuomo has been accused of lead to a far deeper concern within American Politics; the issue of misogyny within officeholders. Sexism and sexual assault appear to be the only bipartisan topic for American politicians in the current day. 

Who is Andrew Cuomo? 

Andrew Cuomo was one of the most powerful Democrat leaders in office. Born on 6 December 1957, Cuomo was a lawyer before becoming a politician. Following his father, Mario Cuomo, he became the 56th governor of New York. Cuomo had already announced that he wished to outdo his father’s prior success of three terms, seeking re-election for a fourth term as Governor in 2022; a dream that will never become a reality.

Cuomo has an impressive CV of holding key positions within the Democrat party, acting as the Assistant District Attorney for New York and the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development within Bill Clinton’s 1997 government. Overall, Andrew Cuomo was setting himself up as a lead Democrat candidate for future Presidential elections. 

Aside from his own political success, Cuomo’s history in public service is steeped in a political dynasty. After graduating from Albany Law School, Cuomo began his career working as the campaign manager for his father’s New York gubernatorial election. His brother, Chris Cuomo followed a different route into public service, becoming one of the leading journalists for “left-leaning” broadcaster CNN. The Cuomo family label was soon becoming as infamous as other notable dynasties such as the Clintons. Andrew affirmed his political lineage when he married Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, in 1990. The couple would later divorce in 2005. 

The Beginning of the End 

On the surface of Andrew Cuomo’s political career, he seemed the perfect Democrat politician. However, in 2014 suggestions soon started to arise of corruption within his governance. In July 2014, Cuomo created a commission to root out corruption within politics. However, in a matter of weeks, investigations started to be directed away from Cuomo himself, and he soon disbanded the commission. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan launched a probe into Cuomo’s dealing with this commission and concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a crime. Nonetheless, accusations were later made against Cuomo, and the people he was associated with for years to come. 

The first accusation of sexual assault against Cuomo came through a series of tweets on 13 December 2020, from a former aide who was running as a candidate for the Manhattan Borough President in 2021. The accusations alleged that Cuomo had sexually harassed her and that many had stood by and watched. These tweets were soon followed in 2021 by other women who had worked within his office. The accusations include Cuomo speaking inappropriately in the workplace about their sex life, touching and kissing women without their consent. Andrew Cuomo’s office claimed that all accusations were false. 

In a statement on 28 February, Andrew Cuomo directly addressed the accusations himself, apologising and acknowledging that his interactions have been insensitive and that his comments were too personal. He stated;

 “Some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

On 1 March 2021, Cuomo’s senior council and special advisor Beth Garvey instructed the New York Attorney General Letitia James to carry out an independent investigation of Cuomo. The investigation concluded after five months, and the report was released on 3 August 2021. It concluded that during Cuomo’s time in office, he had sexually harassed eleven women, some from his office, others were journalists, and some he met at functions, even at a wedding. The investigation concluded that forms of harassment included unwanted kissing, groping, and sexual comments. It also found that Cuomo’s office had engaged in illegal opposition against his first accuser for her testimony against him. 

Cuomo denied unwanted groping and kissing in response to the investigation. 

On 10 August, following calls from other senior Democrats, Andrew Cuomo announced he would step down as New York Governor effective the 24 August. 

Is it over yet? 

Before the sexual assault claims, Cuomo was viewed as one of the leading men in the Democrat party – a potential future president, and a voice of opposition against far-right Republicans (especially during Trump’s Presidency). Cuomo’s handling of the Covid pandemic in New York was reputed as the best communicative response by any federal leader in the United States and contrasted with every briefing Trump put forward. Although Cuomo’s first response to the pandemic was slow and mistaken, his briefings soon outshone Trump’s. 

Cuomo looked like the bright light at the end of the storm of the Trump presidency. 

It is for this exact reason why these allegations are of extreme significance. Cuomo was everything that Trump was not: he was an established politician, his policies preserved civil rights, he had experience. Yet, these allegations seem to prove the two are not very far removed from each other. Both have been accused of sexually harassing women. Is this the crux of American politics? More importantly, after Trump is elected President in 2016, will this even affect Cuomo’s future political career? 

Through the accusations against both Trump and Cuomo, it is clear to see that there is still an ingrained issue of the exploitation of women by powerful figures in American politics on both sides of the political spectrum. However, the election of Trump as president, following his accusation, suggests the American people simply do not mind this at all. So far, in Cuomo’s case, it appears there is a different result, with his resignation following the inquiry. Though, due to his reputation surrounding his response to the Covid pandemic, it is still possible that this will not be the last we see of Andrew Cuomo politically any time soon. It must be acknowledged that no court case has been brought forward to grant Cuomo a guilty verdict. 

One thing is clear from this scandal. No matter whether leaders in office are established politicians or were TV show hosts in a previous life, they may still be as untrustworthy as each other when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. The real question will be whether America stands up against this behaviour or continues its history of ignoring the voices of potential accusers. 

So, What now?

Following Cuomo’s resignation, only an internal inquiry has been achieved, as no case has been brought forward yet, although the accusers are still providing evidence in statements against Cuomo. This means that no prosecution or guilty verdict can be broached, as there has been no case for Andrew Cuomo to answer to. 

In terms of his office, the lieutenant governor automatically becomes the acting governor when there is a resignation or impeachment.

Kathy Hochul held the office of lieutenant governor from 2015 and was officially sworn in as governor at midnight on 24 August 2021, in a private ceremony. Hochul becomes the first woman to hold the office of New York governor, bringing a massive change to the months of turmoil that the office has seen under Cuomo in the past year. However, as a devout Roman Catholic, Hochul continues the political persuasion of leaders in New York.

Although socially liberal, New York remains a city whose political choices tend to signify stability and tradition. New York may be culturally diverse and socially liberal, but its political values are far more conservative than its other liberal counterparts, such as California. This being said, Hochul has already replaced the communications aides which were involved in the response to sexual assault allegations and were found in the inquiry to have potentially led to illegal retaliation against one of the accusers. This signifies a turning-point in New York executive politics, one which may actually listen to women’s voices. 

Written by Giselle Inglis | Illustrated by Beth Herbert

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