On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation amid a slew of allegations and scandals. Along with ongoing investigations into whether Cuomo underreported the COVID-19 death toll in New York nursing homes or used state resources to sell and promote his book, a recent report found that the disgraced governor sexually harassed 11 women — including former and current state employees. In his resignation speech, Cuomo dodged accountability — he argued "there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment," and chalked his actions up to generational and cultural differences — but he did "deeply, deeply" apologize to the women he "truly offended."
The people who have been really forthcoming about their regrets, though? The Cuomosexuals.
At the start of the pandemic, Americans were in desperate need of leadership and reassurance. Compared to former President and former Tweeter Donald Trump, Cuomo seemed competent. He believed in science and listened to leading disease experts. He gave daily press conferences. He bantered with his CNN anchor brother, which was always ethically dubious but offered some levity and entertainment, I guess. He even made colorful maps and drawings!
Despite his spotted history, people suddenly trusted and even loved Cuomo. People admitted to crushing on him; they even thought he should run for President. And when The Daily Show host Trevor Noah proudly called himself a "Cuomosexual," a wave of cheeky, cutesy merchandise started popping up online. People bought shirts with the express purpose of advertising their Cuomosexuality. There were mugs; there were socks. But today, there are only questions. Like, who sold and purchased this merch in the first place? Where are these people now? Where are these items now?
Some stores are still going strong. Etsy seller Johnny Blaze told The New York Post that he sold many Cuomosexual mugs in 2020 before orders slowed down this year. Suddenly, there's been a resurgence. "All of a sudden people started ordering that mug," Blaze said. "We've probably sold about 100 mugs in the last two weeks."
Kristin, who sells mugs, cards, and tote bags emblazoned with shirtless illustrations of Cuomo, also saw a recent uptick in orders. "Sales peaked last week during lockdown. We have actually seen an increase in sales in the last few days too," she tells Refinery29.
Will she stop selling these items, now that Cuomo is facing a criminal complaint and a damning report from Attorney General Letitia James? "I believe in innocent until proven guilty. Our cancel culture in the U.S. is too much," Kristin says in response to Cuomo facing nearly a dozen sexual harassment allegations. "If he is found guilty, I will stop selling them."
Many sellers and buyers, however, feel uncomfortable continuing to promote Cuomo merch. One woman, who used to proudly wear a "Cuomosexual" t-shirt, told The Cut that she removed the tag and now wears the shirt inside out. "I don't want to be associated with him now," she said. "It's been a real wake-up call to be more careful about who I get behind." Another told The New York Post that Cuomo's crimes were "worse than betrayal," and made her question her taste in men and ability to trust.
Some people who sold this merch, though, weren't even Cuomosexuals themselves. James Melzer, an Etsy seller, told The New York Times that he wasn’t "big into politics," but started selling "Cuomosexual" stickers in April 2020 after he was furloughed from his job. After learning about the probe, he removed the stickers from his shop. "I have family members that were sexually assaulted, friends that were. So I take that very seriously. I have no interest in promoting or being associated with that type of behavior," Melzer said.
Lingua Franca, a New York-based cashmere sweater brand, once sold $285 sweaters embroidered with "Cuomosexual" and "Cuomo for President." Now, the shop is offering to restitch any Cuomo-themed sweaters, free of charge. "We believed his accusers at the beginning, and we continue to believe them," reads a post from the label's Instagram account.
Creators and designers move fast. (Much faster than Cuomo, who said his resignation will go into effect in two weeks.) Not only have sellers backtracked, but some have started selling Cuomo resignation merch: Today, a "Cuomo" search on Etsy reveals tees like "No Mo Cuomo" and "Bye, Cuomo!" The world of slogan T-shirts and snarky mugs won't slow down, but the sharp rise and fall of the Cuomosexual merch is a much-needed reminder that politicians shouldn't be our idols, shouldn't be our heroes, and definitely shouldn't be our heartthrobs.