A former aide who accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment alleges the governor had “a long pattern of harassing staffers, especially women” in their shared workplace.
Karen Hinton, who served as press secretary when Cuomo was secretary of housing and urban development, said she regularly witnessed Cuomo’s “misconduct with other women at HUD.” Hinton accused Cuomo of “harass[ing] and bull[ying]” one top female aide “in ways to force her resignation” and passing over a “highly qualified woman” in favor of a “white guy” for a HUD position because “she was ‘not attractive enough’ for him.”
“I also saw him flirt with and tease a young, attractive staffer at HUD who began to think Cuomo cared for her. As a result, she and her boyfriend, who had worked for Cuomo, broke up. Cuomo’s flirt had been a payback move because the boyfriend had left his job without Cuomo’s permission,” she recounted in another incident for her New York Daily Newsop-ed. “A few years later, the woman staffer reappeared in New York looking for a job, and Cuomo did nothing to help her. This was more about power and control than a sexual overture.”
Hinton calls the phenomenon “penis politics,” a political norm about not only “sexual abuse” but also “gender discrimination.”
“Cuomo is a master of dark art. … Cuomo churned his own doubt after he initially apologized for acting ‘in a way that made people feel uncomfortable but then reversed course, calling his accusers liars. He dug himself another hole last week when he told a female reporter, ‘If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That’s you feeling uncomfortable,'” she wrote. “So are his 10 accusers liars, uncomfortable women or uncomfortable liars?”
Hinton, 62, first accused Cuomo of impropriety in March, when she alleged Cuomo summoned her to his hotel room in 2000 and pulled her toward him despite her pushing away. Cuomo’s office denied her allegation, calling the encounter “made up.”
“This did not happen,” Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, told the Washington Post. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago. All women have the right to come forward and tell their story — however, it’s also the responsibility of the press to consider self-motivation. This is reckless.”
Despite the governor denying wrongdoing, a total of 10 women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, leading to two investigations: Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the matter at the state level, and New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has directed what’s being termed an “impeachment investigation” in the Legislature.
Cuomo faces several scandals threatening his governorship. He is under federal investigation for his handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic after Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa acknowledged that Cuomo’s office hid the state’s nursing home death toll out of concerns of political retribution from former President Donald Trump. Despite Beth Garvey, a special counsel and adviser to the governor, claiming in March of this year that nursing home death tolls couldn’t be “verified,” a document released last month showed that the Cuomo administration was tracking COVID-19 nursing home deaths since at least April 2020.
The governor has also been accused of directing state health officials to give special COVID-19 testing access to members of his inner circle — claims denied by Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, as an “insincere efforts to rewrite the past” in an email to the Washington Examiner.
James’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment was expanded last Tuesday to look into claims that a top adviser tied counties’ COVID-19 vaccine access to support for the governor.
On April 19, James received a referral from the comptroller to conduct another investigation, this time into Cuomo’s use of state resources for his book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The referral followed a March 31 ethics complaint from liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as it sought an inquiry into whether the Democratic governor violated a law prohibiting “the use of campaign funds for personal use,” arguing Cuomo’s reelection campaign “promoted sales of the book extensively on social media,” including at least four times on Facebook.
Cuomo insisted members of his staff volunteered to help with the book, but his office acknowledged that there might be some “incidental” use of state resources, according to the New York Times.
Facing mounting pressure from within his party to resign, Cuomo, who is eligible to seek a fourth term in office in 2022, has vowed not to step down, saying that the allegations of impropriety against him are false.
Representatives for Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment.