There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty or bad because you found comfort in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press briefings during the lockdown early in the coronavirus pandemic. While President Bumblefuck Magoo was prancing around and lying about the severity of the situation while shitting on anyone who would dare ask the federal government to do more, Cuomo was a soothing voice of calm, seemingly honest and straightforward, ready to challenge Donald Trump, and, holy fuck, we just needed that.
You can still appreciate that. I don’t feel ashamed that I enjoyed Bill Cosby’s comedy for decades. But now, I feel awful for his victims, first and foremost, and, way down the list of Cosby fallout, I can’t see him or listen to him without being viscerally repulsed. That’s the only rational reaction. The point here is that you can have thought one way about Cuomo in March 2020 and now think the complete opposite in March 2021 (and as an employee of the state of New York, I’ve thought in many ways about him).
But we have to grapple now with what we know about Cuomo. We know that he has been accused of sexual harassment by at least three women, including two who previously worked for him and his administration. We know that Cuomo and his administration sought to hide the true number of deaths from COVID at nursing homes, partly because it reveals how disastrous was his decision to allow patients recovering from COVID to go back to their nursing homes while still testing positive for it.
And, frankly, as Steven Thrasher details in a Scientific American article, Cuomo made many moves early on in the pandemic that fucked over New York. In mid-March 2020, for instance, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to do a shelter-in-place order, as had been done in Wuhan, China, and Lombardi, Italy, but Cuomo refused to authorize it, saying, “It cannot happen legally. No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval and I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.” That order might have saved 17,000 lives.
Oh, it’s fun to laugh at Cuomo and the Cuomosexuals, the ones who put him on a pedestal so high that he had the gall to write (or have ghostwritten) a book titled American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic while we are still very much in the midst of the goddamn crisis and the fuckin’ lessons are still being learned. It’s pretty awkward and not so fun that the book has this line: “New York was number forty-six of fifty in the nation when it came to percentage of deaths nursing homes.” Well, no fucking shit when you’re reporting numbers that are half what they should be.
And now multiple Democrats have called on the Democratic governor to resign in the wake of the allegations of inappropriate behavior with women who worked for him. This has led other Democrats to angrily cry, “Franken!” under the belief that Senator Al Franken resigning over sexual misconduct with several women was hasty and wrong and excessive. While I would have liked to have seen a full inquiry into the allegations, I said at the time that Franken had to go because it gave strength to the growing #MeToo movement and allowed us to criticize Donald Trump with clean hands. (And, to be fair, Franken’s replacement, Tina Smith, has been a pretty great senator for Minnesota.)
However, as Dahlia Lithwick points out, we’ve gotten to where thorough investigations into allegations made in the media should be welcomed. She writes, “It’s not a terrible thing to allow an independent investigator to gather all the facts and arrive at a formal conclusion before calling for his immediate ouster…If we’d spent the time we’ve spent calling for people to step down immediately in formulating and refining an actual process that could formally investigate claims and issue guidance on what should be done about them, we might have ended up in a place where more sexual predators could be held accountable rather than fewer.” And that, to me, seems like pretty solid footing to be on.
And that’s not because I have any love for Andrew Cuomo. Seriously, in most ways, fuck that guy. But it’s because, as I’ve written before, we’re in the midst of reckoning on shitty behavior by men, including those who may not understand how their behavior is shitty (really, if you don’t get how being a creep is making a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened or even just getting in the way of her doing her goddamn job, that’s on you). It’s a reckoning that is long overdue. These allegations may just take down Andrew Cuomo and force him to resign. More likely, he’ll have to answer to voters, which isn’t necessarily an awful outcome.
But I think the way to give power to this reckoning is for there to be some kind of official affirmation of the charges. It’s not about disbelieving Charlotte Bennett, Lindsay Boylan, and Anna Ruch. As with the allegations against Joe Biden or against Brett Kavanaugh, it’s about taking allegations seriously and not dismissing or accepting them because of your feelings towards the person being accused. It’s about trying to make sure the due process and due diligence are done.
I’ll tell you one thing that has me additionally pissed about the Bennett case is that she followed the procedure that the state, you know, the one led by Cuomo, has for reporting harassment in the workplace. As someone in a supervisory position and, like I said, employed by New York State, I can tell you that this shit is hammered into us, with potential consequences if we don’t act correctly on hostile workplace reports. By law, there was supposed to be an investigation, and that wasn’t done. In fact, according to Bennett, Cuomo’s chief of staff and general counsel said that there would be no investigation because “You came to us before anything serious happened. It was just grooming and it was not yet considered sexual harassment.” How fucked is that. Also, every employee of the state at a certain level has to take an online sexual harassment training, as I have, and Cuomo didn’t fucking do it.
Andrew Cuomo was never who his biggest fans thought he was. Thrasher’s article makes it crystal fuckin’ clear that his actions in slashing hospital beds and Medicaid spending exacerbated the effects of COVID on New York. Cuomo is a fucking asshole, an old school hardball player who will fuck with members of his own party (although, in New York, sometimes Democrats are the Democrats’ biggest enemies). He’s had multiple scandals already, although you wouldn’t know that since they happened before he became “America’s governor” (damn, I think I gagged writing that).
So if this is the end for him, if it’s because of the harassment allegations against him, then so be it. Cuomo is not irreplaceable. Almost no one is. He might have given us something that we needed in a terrible moment, but, hey, breakups happen.
One note, though: If you’re someone who gave Donald Trump a pass on all his rape and sexual misconduct allegations, you can just sit the fuck down on Cuomo.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on March 6, 2021 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.