In an essay published to Medium on Wednesday morning, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former colleagues accused him of sexually harassing his staff and creating a hostile, inappropriate work environment for women. Lindsey Boylan, a former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor, wrote that Cuomo “created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.” In a statement to Refinery29, Cuomo's press secretary Caitlin Girouard said, "Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false."
Boylan joined New York’s state government in 2015. She says she first met Cuomo in 2016, and her boss soon informed her that he had a “crush” on her. In a screenshot published along with the story, Stephanie Benton, the Director of the Governor’s Offices, allegedly told Boylan that Cuomo had likened her to Lisa Shields, his rumored ex-girlfriend. “You could be sisters. Except you’re the better looking sister,” she alleged Cuomo said to her. Boylan says he then began calling her “Lisa” in front of colleagues.
“His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,” she wrote. She added that he went out of his way to touch her “lower back, arms, and legs,” and often made demeaning comments about women in his staff, including remarks about their appearances and jokes about their love lives. After her promotion in 2018, Boylan says Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a one-on-one briefing. She quit shortly thereafter.
Boylan first came forward with her allegations in December, after another former staffer told her that she had also experienced harassment. “Her story mirrored my own,” Boylan said. “Seeing his name floated as a potential candidate for U.S. Attorney General — the highest law enforcement official in the land — set me off.”
This prompted Boylan to make a Twitter thread accusing Cuomo of harassing her and his staff of staying silent. At the time, Cuomo’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, told Refinery29 in a statement, “There is simply no truth to these claims.”
Cuomo is currently facing backlash for misrepresenting the number of New York’s nursing home deaths from COVID-19 by failing to include thousands of nursing home residents who died in hospitals in the state’s official nursing home death toll. But as the story spiraled, Cuomo has also been criticized for threatening, bullying, and blaming his critics, including other New York politicians. Democratic Assemblyman Ron T. Kim claimed that Cuomo called him and threatened to “destroy” him unless he retracted his criticisms of the nursing home controversy.
“When he is enjoying the national spotlight, he wants all the credit, attention and profits that come from his fame. But the moment he is caught engaging in unethical and corrupt behavior, like covering up life-and-death nursing home information, he wants to implicate as many others as possible,” Kim wrote in the New York Daily News. “This is not about a feud between two people, it is about his continuous efforts to implicate other lawmakers with lies and a coverup of his deadly, unilateral policies during this pandemic.”
In an MSNBC interview, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he “100 percent” believes Kim. “That’s classic Andrew Cuomo. A lot of people in New York State have received those phone calls,” de Blasio said. “I believe Ron Kim and it's very, very sad.” He added that the “threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment” is something he has heard “many, many times.”
Boylan has not responded to Refinery29’s request for comment. “I expect the Governor and his top aides will attempt to further disparage me, just as they’ve done with Assemblymember Kim,” Boylan wrote in her essay. “They’d lose their jobs if they didn’t protect him. That’s how his administration works. I know because I was a part of it.”