At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came across as the voice and face of reason for many Americans when it became clear that the leadership in the Oval Office was dismissing the virus as nothing worse than the flu and urging medical researchers to look at injecting bleach as a cure.
During daily televised briefings carried worldwide throughout the height of the first wave, as meat chiller trailers were being used as temporary morgues for the thousands of New Yorkers who had succumbed to COVID-19, Cuomo seemed to the voice of reason and calm for New Yorkers — just like then Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks on the city on 9/11 20 years ago. Well, we all know how it has subsequently worked out with Giuliani — but know it seems as if the Democratic governor’s career will come to a far more sudden stop and fall, with potential legal ramifications as well.
A blistering state attorney general’s report alleging that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women has pushed New York legislators in the state capital of Albany to expedite impeachment proceedings — a process that could take months. In the 165-page report released by the state’s Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo is accused of violating state and federal law by harassing 11 women, touching some of them inappropriately and using the power of his office to retaliate against one.
The governor has denied any wrongdoing but the pressure on the scion of Democratic Party royalty to resign is intense — with even President Joe Biden saying he should step aside.
The legal woes are mounting too over his administration’s response to COVID-19. While publicly he was urging calm, the state’s judiciary committee has hired lawyers to probe claims his administration intentionally under counted coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and misused state resources on his book about leadership during the pandemic.
Only one New York governor has ever been impeached — William Sulzer, who was removed from office in 1913 for forging campaign expenses.
The allegations of sexual harassment, however, have also prompted district attorneys in Westchester County, Nassau County and Manhattan to investigate if any criminal misconduct occurred in their jurisdictions. The claims against the 63-year-old include him asking one woman if she like sex with older men, other explicit comments through to claims of unwanted and inappropriate touching and kissing.
Cuomo vehemently denied the accusations in a video statement Tuesday, saying he never acted inappropriately and arguing his comments had been misinterpreted.
Either way, it is an ignominious chapter in the Cuomo family that has long dominated Democratic party circles in New York. The Cuomo’s are, in effect, what the Kennedy’s are to Boston and Massachusetts — political royalty that emerged from the rough and tumble of immigration and the American dream.
The marriage between the two political clans was literally sealed in 1990 with Cuomo’s wedding to Kerry Kennedy. Three days after she was born, her father Robert took over the campaign to make his brother John president, and he took office in 1961. In June 1968, while Robert campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for the White House, he was assassinated in a hotel kitchen.
The marriage lasted 15 years.
Cuomo’s later father, Mario, was also governor and hugely popular within the party. Many urged him to run for president on two separate races but he refused. So, yes, we are talking Democratic royalty here.
Brother Chris is a prime time CNN presenter and he has interviewed his brother several times. The latest investigation, however, was not covered by Chris on his Tuesday night show.
Cuomo’s official biography on the New York governor’s official site says he was born on Dec. 6, 1957 and was the second child of Mario Cuomo and Matilda Raffa Cuomo. His paternal grandparents Andrea and Immaculato Cuomo emigrated from Salerno, Italy to South Jamaica, Queens in the 1920s, where Andrea ran a small grocery store. (If there was a soundtrack to this, it would have to be the score from The Godfather …)
The biography says Cuomo learnt the reality of the middle-class, working family struggle. He graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx in 1979 and received his law degree from Albany Law School in 1982.
After law school, Cuomo headed the transition committee for then Governor-Elect Mario Cuomo and then served as an adviser to his father taking a salary of $1 a year. (That soundtrack is still playing …)
He turned his focus to homelessness and founded the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP) — a not-for-profit that set a national model for serving the homeless.
After the 1996 election, President Bill Clinton appointed Cuomo to serve in his cabinet as the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. A decade later, Cuomo was elected New York State Attorney General on an agenda that pledged to fight for social, racial, and economic justice. “He fought discrimination in rental apartments, challenged corporate abuse of the middle class, and took on the big banks that were squandering billions of dollars in bailout money,” the bio says.
He ran for governor in 2010 and was handily elected — and returned again in 2014 and 2018. Now, these scandals and his future position remain delicately balanced, perhaps so too his liberty.
The official biography adds that Cuomo is the proud father of three girls, Mariah, Cara, and Michaela.
It doesn’t say whether they are proud of him now.