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Unmistakable Message in Cuomo’s Downfall

Wed, 08/11/2021 - 18:09


The imminent resignation of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is long overdue, but it marks an important step forward for victims of sexual harassment. Allegations of his inappropriate advances on both his female staff and strangers are consistent, as detailed in a report from the office of the state attorney general. They paint a picture of a powerful male who took advantage of his position at the top of state government to knowingly violate people in addition to law and decency. Moreover, people close to the governor recognized the pattern, joked about it, and even adopted an informal policy to chaperone his interactions with younger women. Even now, his lawyers are assailing the women who came forward in a futile attempt to protect his legacy or, as has been amply documented, express his rage.

Mr. Cuomo should have been ousted from the Executive Mansion a year ago, if only for his disbanding of an anti-corruption probe once it got too close to his dark money supporters. The governor had established the Moreland Commission, saying in public that it would be independent and free to follow wherever the evidence took it. In reality, though, he tried to manage it to protect his own interests and that of cronies. A New Yorker article by Ronan Farrow that details just how bad it got for the commission leaders should be required reading for anyone interested in just how corrupt Albany became under Mr. Cuomo.

Among the incidents it recounts is how the governor made a ham-handed romantic advance on Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor who would become the Moreland Commission’s chief of investigations. It also describes statements made to Kathleen Rice, one of its co-chairpeople, threatening her career if the commission went forward with subpoenas of some of the governor’s deep-pocket supporters. Then, after Moreland was ended and United States Attorney Preet Bharara began picking up its work, the governor called the Obama White House to improperly and arguably illegally complain. He might have gone further by demanding that Mr. Bharara be restrained, but Valerie Jarrett, a top advisor to the president, who had taken the call, sensed trouble and quickly got off the line.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be New York’s first female governor once Mr. Cuomo is gone. In temperament she appears his near-opposite, eager to meet New Yorkers of every sort and learn about what is important to them. Appealing, too, is that she began her political climb serving a number of terms on the town board in Hamburg, N.Y., then in Erie County government as deputy clerk and clerk before going to Washington for a term in Congress. Nonetheless, she had a relatively low profile statewide and may have not represented a threat when Mr. Cuomo got her through the 2014 Democratic Convention to be his running mate. Now, with her, Attorney General Letitia James, and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, women are at the top in Albany for the first time.

A hopeful message of the governor’s downfall is that more women will have the confidence that their complaints about mistreatment by men and the institutional cover-ups that have shielded them will be heard and taken seriously at every level of public and private life. That is what is truly the most overdue.

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