By: Erin Albright, Staff Writer
Governor Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y. could face the state’s first impeachment in over a century due to claims of sexual harassment, undercounting nursing home deaths related to COVID-19 and giving his family testing priority during the early days of the pandemic.
Cuomo, serving his third term as governor, was widely celebrated for managing the country’s first COVID-19 hotspot. While the rest of the state’s residents struggled to obtain COVID-19 tests, Cuomo allegedly gave his family priority testing and special treatment.
Members of the governor’s family, including his mother, at least one of his sisters and his brother Chris, a CNN anchor, received in-home testing by top health department officials several times.
Health officials went into the family’s private residences to administer the tests, then drove hours to deliver them to the laboratory, an extremely uncommon practice.
The samples, which had been referred to as “critical samples,” were moved to the front of the line at the Wadsworth Center, the state’s only COVID-19 test laboratory during the early days of the pandemic.
Critics admonish Cuomo for this, noting that the governor did this while telling New Yorkers the virus was the “greatest equalizer,” and saying “we’re all in this together.”
Cuomo was also criticized for undercounting deaths in nursing homes. Opposition began last spring regarding a state requirement that forced nursing homes to take back residents who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 once they recovered from the virus.
Policy critics said the move increased the number of virus-related deaths among nursing home residents.
Last July, the state health department released a report that found the policy was not responsible for an increase, but the report raised questions about how the state reported deaths. In January, New York’s attorney general said the administration had undercounted nursing home deaths by several thousand.
Cuomo acknowledged the error, blaming the lower figure on fears that the Trump administration would use the data as a political weapon.
Misconduct allegations against Cuomo have not been limited to pandemic operations. Since December, over eight former and current State Capitol workers have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and assault.
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide, was the first to accuse the governor. At the end of 2020, Boylan explained in a series of tweets that she had been kissed against her will and sexually harassed.
“Yes, he sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it and watched,” Boylan said in a tweet.
“I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has. But it’s just not true,” Cuomo said in response to Boylan’s accusations.
Dozens of current and former employees of the governor’s office during Cuomo’s tenure have described it as being a chaotic and unprofessional workplace, and particularly toxic for young women.
Other former aides felt compelled to share their stories after Boylan shared hers. Many of the stories echo tones of a demeaning office culture.
While some remained anonymous, current aide Alyssa McGrath alleged that Cuomo exhibited inappropriate tendencies such as commenting on her divorce and her beauty. McGrath said she and a coworker had been called “mingle mamas” by the governor.
“He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you’re his friend. But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation, in your head going, ‘I can’t believe I just had that interaction with the governor of New York,’” McGrath said.
Other aides were reportedly asked questions about their sex lives and told by Cuomo that he would be open to relationships with young women.
An anonymous former staff member alleged that she was groped under her blouse without consent.
Governor Cuomo has maintained the denial of any wrongdoing or sexual assault. Attorney General Letitia James has opened an investigation into the matter.
“He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone,” Cuomo’s lawyer Rita Glavin said.
In an interview with ABC News on March 16, President Biden said he thinks Cuomo should resign if the investigation confirms the women’s claims, as well as the allegations of testing misconduct, are true.
The New York State Assembly opened an impeachment inquiry on March 11 to investigate the allegations of misconduct and wrongdoing, as 12 of 19 New York House Democrats have called on Cuomo to resign.