Gov. Cuomo goes down in a blaze of self-pity
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stunned observers today by announcing his resignation following a devastating report detailing his sexual harassment of multiple women and official misconduct to cover his misdeeds. In the week since the report's release, Cuomo lost his closest advisor and the support of Democrats from Albany to Washington. Even so, most observers had expected him to hold out until the state legislature made good on its threat to impeach him.
Cuomo's resignation was a non-apology for the ages. He started by painting himself as victim of a biased report by the attorney general's office, a miscarriage of justice that he said should concern all New Yorkers.
Cuomo refused to acknowledge that he had sexually harassed anyone and instead offered an apology for merely offending his victims. "There is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment," he said pointedly.
"Now, don't get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize," he added.
"In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn," Cuomo said, painting himself as the haplessly friendly victim of shifting cultural mores and easily offended women who didn't appreciate his jocular sense of humor and hands-on management style.
Cuomo spoke at length about a trooper from his protective detail, who told investigators that the governor ran his hand down her back and rubbed her stomach as she guarded him.
"I felt … the palm of his hand on my belly button and … pushed back toward my right hip where my gun is … I would say [the belly button] was probably in … the center of his palm," the woman identified in the report as Trooper #1 told investigators. "I felt … completely violated because to me … that's between my chest and my privates."
Cuomo conceded that, although he doesn't remember the incident, he believes her account. A fellow trooper told investigators he saw it happen, so Cuomo can't very well deny it.
Cuomo tried to explain that he gropes his entire protective detail, including the men.
"When I walk past [the state troopers guarding me], I will often give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back. It's my way of saying 'I see you, I appreciate you and I thank you.' I'm not comfortable just walking past and ignoring them," he explained.
You see, Cuomo wasn't preying on the troopers; he was thanking them. He wouldn't feel comfortable not groping them. That's just the kind of guy he is.
Cuomo insisted that he was not fondling the officer in a lustful manner. No, the governor explained, he was just absent-mindedly exploring private areas of her body with his hand: "I just wasn't thinking. It was totally thoughtless in the literal sense of the word."
Indeed, Cuomo has a lot on his mind. Earlier, the governor's lawyer, Rita Glavin, had kicked off the press conference by assailing the report, the media and the members of the State Assembly whom she accused of rushing to judge the governor. Glavin had seemed focused on raising reasonable doubts about whether the governor groped a former aide's breast, an allegation that could draw criminal charges. Albany County Sheriff said Saturday that his agency had opened a criminal investigation and that Cuomo could face at least one, or "possibly a couple" charges stemming from allegations contained in the report.
At times, the governor seemed aware of how absurd he sounds. The political climate is simply too "reactionary" for him to explain himself, Cuomo insisted. "If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand, I believe that." In other words, it's not Cuomo's fault for pawing people, it's our fault for not wanting to hear his excuses.
The governor announced that, despite having been unfairly maligned by a biased report full of allegations made by vengeful actors, he was selflessly resigning because it was the best thing for the people of New York, lest his impending impeachment become a distraction. This is indeed for the best. We all know what Cuomo does when he's distracted.
Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she's a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.
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