Apr 9, 2021 | OPINION | By Emma McDermott | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
The past 13 months must have been an absolute whirlwind for New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo. The son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and brother to CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo garnered national attention for his daily COVID-19 briefings and earned praise from public health experts for his handling of the pandemic. He won awards, wrote a book, and was suggested as a running mate for President Joe Biden. The reality of Gov. Cuomo’s life, however, is not so rosy.
Recent months of the pandemic have not been as kind to Gov. Cuomo as its first months. A few of the current controversies that surround the governor of New York are his covering up of the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, a seemingly corrupt book deal, apparent special access to limited COVID-19 tests for family members and a string of sexual harassment accusations.
These last are the most serious and pressing allegations that Gov. Cuomo faces: claims of sexual harassment from 10 women, many of whom knew him in a professional environment. In fact, the first current employee of the governor recently came forward with a list of the disturbing incidents she and a co-worker had experienced at Cuomo’s hands.
One credible accusation of sexual harassment should be more than enough reason for a public servant –– or really anyone, for that matter –– to resign. Nevertheless, Cuomo faces 10 credible accusations and has refused to resign, arguing that he won’t give in to cancel culture. While he may not think it fair, resigning is the best thing for him to do and the most respectful response to the women he disrespected.
Former Democratic Senator for Minnesota, Al Franken, resigned in 2018 when he was faced with accusations of sexual misconduct within weeks of the first accusation, and Gov. Cuomo should take note. In Franken’s case, Senate Democrats almost immediately encouraged him to step down, and Franken listened to his colleagues, many of them women.
At the time of his resignation, Franken resigned after one main sexual misconduct accusation. It took just one claim for him to step down; Gov. Cuomo has racked up 10 complaints and still won’t even entertain the possibility of resignation.
While Cuomo should be capable enough to understand why it is best –– for both him and the women accusing him of sexual harassment –– to resign, this issue also involves Democrats across the country.
There is often hypocrisy, on both sides of the aisle, when it comes to remaining committed to principles when that commitment means criticizing someone in one’s own party. Sexual misconduct, however, is an area in which there can be no such flip-flopping from anyone, especially Democrats, who call Republicans out for it all the time.
As such, anyone who opposed Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court should demand Gov. Cuomo’s resignation, regardless of politics. People like Sen. Murkowski and former Senators Heitkamp and McCaskill voted their consciences in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing even when the latter two, it could be argued, lost their seats because of their votes.
The two senators for New York, Gillibrand and Majority Leader Schumer, have already called for Cuomo’s resignation. It’s now important that people like Sen. Joe Manchin –– who supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation –– and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who are both moderate Democrats, are held accountable for how they address the Cuomo controversy.
On this note, Sen. Manchin opposed President Biden’s pick for the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, earlier this year on the basis of her tweets; it’s noteworthy to comment on the number of Trump nominees he supported who held extreme beliefs and tweeted irresponsibly. It certainly seems like Sen. Manchin, in this case, holds men and women to different standards, and the Cuomo case is the perfect time for Democrats, those more progressive and those more moderate, to unite.
Plenty of Democrats in all levels of government are calling for the resignation of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, who faces some “weird,” to quote Fox News host Tucker Carlson, accusations of sexual misconduct. Gov. Cuomo should be held to the same standard that Democrats hold Republican lawmakers to.
Sexual misconduct should have absolutely no place in the U.S. government. The standard should be the same for people across the political spectrum because principles matter. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time is up, and if he doesn’t realize it, Democrats need to make him.