According to the aide, Charlotte Bennett, during the time that she worked as an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration, he asked her intrusive questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships, and if she ever had sex with an older man. Bennett says this all took place late last spring and, according to The New York Times, is supported by texts. This comes days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, shared a detailed account of sexual harassment from Cuomo spanning several years. In October 2017, Boylan said that the governor suggested they play strip poker. Then, in 2018, she says that Cuomo kissed her on the lips. Anna Ruch, the third woman to accuse Cuomo, said that he made unwanted advances during a wedding reception in New York in 2019.
On February 28, Cuomo issued an apologetic statement that seemed to confirm some of Bennett's and Ruch's accusations: "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended." He then acknowledged that these comments may "have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation." However, Cuomo and his office have denied the allegations levied by Boylan and called for an independent investigation which will be led by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The situation is not unlike the circumstances that former Senator Al Franken faced before he resigned. On Tuesday, Franken started trending on Twitter as people discussed the similarities and differences between the two men. In the fall of 2017, eight women accused Franken of strikingly similar misconduct in which he inappropriately touched them during photos. Others recalled instances where he tried to forcibly kiss them. "I take thousands and thousands of pictures, sometimes in chaotic and crowded situations," he said in an apology. "I can't say I haven't done that. I'm very sorry if these women experienced that." After a stream of senators called on him to resign, he agreed.
Lines drawn between Cuomo and Franken's allegations share another similarity: accountability from within their party. And since sexual misconduct is a bipartisan issue, it begs the question: Why are only Democrats holding members of their own party accountable?
This is not to say the Democratic party in totality is a shining example of accountability. And it certainly shouldn't be about praising one party over another. In fact, as long as we are consistently encountering story after story of misconduct, no one should be patting themselves on the back. The issue here with the Republican party is the inconsistency and desire to protect their own.
More than 20 women have accused Former President Donald Trump of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. While case after case was mounted, his supporters in the Republican party did not demand an investigation, they didn't call for him to resign, they didn't even ask him to address it. They decided that Trump remaining in his position was more important to their end goals than calling out a pattern of inappropriate and criminal behavior.
And Trump is not the only one: In the past week alone, several women came forward accusing freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of sexual harassment and misconduct, and this has not seemed to set back his career in politics in the slightest.
It is easy to point to the other side and call out misconduct and harassment. When Franken was accused, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to issue a statement saying that Franken should face an ethics investigation or step down. McConnell notably did nothing about Trump's 20+ accusations.
Sexually inappropriate and exploitative behavior should be universally condemned. When it is situationally castigated — political opponents being lambasted while closing ranks with tight lips when it is a member of your own party — it allows for boundaries and repercussions to be optional.
We preserve what we protect. If we preserve accountability, we protect the people who come forward. If we preserve a politician or a person in power in order to achieve our own ends, we protect abusers and the idea that inappropriate behavior won't be followed by consequences. Cuomo should be held accountable, but let's not forget that there are a lot more people who need to be held accountable as well. It can't only be done when it's easy.