In a blog post published on Wednesday, a former aide of Andrew Cuomo gave detailed allegations of a series of unwanted sexual advances by the New York Governor, including an invitation to play strip poker and an unwanted kiss on the lips.
The allegations were made by Lindsey Boylan, currently a Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president, who first alleged that Cuomo had made unwanted sexual advances towards her in a series of tweets in December. On Wednesday, she wrote a 1700-word blog post for Medium.com which detailed the harassment and unwanted advances she allegedly suffered for years.
Boylan, who served as an aide to the long-time governor, alleged that “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”.
The sexual harassment was so bad, Boylan claims, that when she accepted a promotion to be Cuomo’s special advisor and deputy secretary for economic development in 2018, she only did so on the condition that she “remain on a separate floor from him and his inner circle.” Boylan resigned from her posts in September 2018 after Cuomo kissed her on the lips during a one-on-one meeting.
In another incident, Boylan alleges that she and Cuomo were on a ‘taxpayer-funded jet’ when Cuomo suggested ‘Let’s play strip poker’. Boylan also alleges in the blog post that Cuomo “would go out of the way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs”. Another allegation made by Boylan is that Cuomo’s secretary sent passed on a message from Cuomo to Boylan which allegedly told Boylan that she was Cuomo’s type. Boylan wrote:
“Stephanie Benton, Director of the Governor’s Offices, told me in an email on December 14, 2016 that the Governor suggested I look up images of Lisa Shields — his rumored former girlfriend — because “we could be sisters” and I was “the better looking sister.” The Governor began calling me “Lisa” in front of colleagues. It was degrading.”
The aforementioned incidents and behaviours, along with a slew of other inappropriate behaviour from the governor, prompted her to speak out. She said:
“I know some will brush off my experience as trivial. We are accustomed to powerful men behaving badly when no one is watching. But what does it say about us when everyone is watching and no one says a thing?
Telling my truth isn’t about seeking revenge. I was proud to work in the Cuomo Administration. For so long I had looked up to the Governor. But his abusive behavior needs to stop.
I am speaking up because I have the privilege to do so when many others do not. No one should have to be defined or destroyed by this kind of sexual harassment. Nor should they be revictimized if they decide to speak their own truth.
I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same.”
Boylan also claims that she was not the only woman to experience this kind of behaviour whilst working for Cuomo; she claims that two other woman approached her after she first made her allegations public. Boylan wrote that “both told me they were too afraid to speak out”.
In her post, Boylan wrote what happened when she first started speaking up for herself after the unwanted kiss on the lips in 2018, claiming that prominent women in Cuomo’s administration ‘normalized’ the governor’s behaviour.
She said that “My relationship with his senior team — mostly women — grew hostile after I started speaking up for myself. I was reprimanded and told to get in line by his top aides, but I could no longer ignore it”.
The allegations come amidst a wave of criticism of Cuomo’s administration for withholding data about deaths from coronavirus in nursing homes, an allegation which was admitted to by aide Melissa DeRosa. These two scandals could have a huge impact on Cuomo’s popularity, and could potentially unseat a man who has been in office since 2011.
Cuomo’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, called the allegations “quite simply false”.