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Former top aide details sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

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A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made detailed allegations Wednesday that the politician sexually harassed her, describing an unwanted kiss in Cuomo’s office and a pattern of behavior that she says left her “nauseous” going to work.

Lindsey Boylan, who eventually resigned from the Democratic governor’s team, described deep discomfort with Cuomo starting in 2016, when she says her boss told her the governor had a “crush” on her. Boylan said in an online post that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” and she shared images of text messages and emails that she said supported her story, an expansion on public allegations that Cuomo denied last year.

“He is a sexist pig and you should avoid being alone with him!” Boylan’s mother texted her at one point about Cuomo, according to photos of the exchange.

Boylan’s account Wednesday came as Cuomo and his administration are already embroiled in scandal, and under new fire from both Republicans and Democrats for withholding data on coronavirus deaths in the state’s nursing homes. The blowback has increasingly focused on Cuomo himself. The third-term governor, who drew accolades and wide recognition early on for his pandemic response, is besieged with accusations of behind-the-scenes bullying.

One of the governor’s critics on nursing homes, a Democratic state legislator, said last week that Cuomo threatened to “destroy” him during an angry phone call. Another ex-Cuomo staffer described a toxic work environment for women in an opinion piece published Wednesday by the New York Daily News. A chorus of critics in Cuomo’s political orbit — including Boylan — recently told the New York Times about fears of Cuomo’s wrath and threats of retaliation.

Boylan, in her post Wednesday, said Cuomo’s treatment of her was part of a deep-rooted, workplace-wide problem, leading some New York lawmakers to call for an investigation. The Democratic leader of the state Senate said the ex-aide’s claims were “deeply disturbing.”

Cuomo “has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Boylan wrote in her post on Medium. “His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”

In late 2020, Boylan publicly accused Cuomo of sexually harassing her for years, declining at the time to share details and drawing denials from the governor.

“Look, I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has,” Cuomo said at a news conference last year. “But it’s just not true.”

Dark-haired woman wearing airpods waves at camera

Ms Boylan says she was “in shock” after the New York Governor kissed her.(Supplied: Twitter)
A spokeswoman for the governor, Caitlin Girouard, reiterated Wednesday that Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.” Girouard focused on the former’s aide’s opening anecdote about the governor allegedly suggesting they “play strip poker” while seated close together on Cuomo’s jet in October 2017.

Four people listed as taking flights with Cuomo and Boylan that month issued a statement through the governor’s office saying that the conversation Boylan described “did not happen.” Girouard did not comment on other specifics of Boylan’s account.

Boylan said she was warned about Cuomo after becoming chief of staff at New York’s economic development agency: “Be careful around the governor,” she said an unnamed friend at a civic engagement group told her.

She said she first met Cuomo at a 2016 Madison Square Garden event where the governor paid her a surprising amount of attention. Then, she said, her boss told her about Cuomo’s “crush.”

“It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: the struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance,” Boylan wrote.

Her account of a hostile workplace for women in particular was echoed Wednesday by Karen Hinton, who worked with Cuomo while he was part of the Clinton administration. Hinton drew a contrast with Cuomo’s outward projections.

“Like many powerful men in politics, they create a public image as champions of women’s rights and equality,” Hinton wrote Wednesday in the New York Daily News. “Behind closed doors, they use gender domination as one means to assert their power over women.”

Cuomo’s office did not address inquiries about Hinton’s op-ed and broader accusations of a troubling workplace culture.

Boylan recounted alleged incidents in detail. She said the strip poker comment came during a flight in October 2017, as she and Cuomo were seated together, a press aide to one side and a state trooper behind them.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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