This is a fast-moving story, breaking later on Wednesday by the Times Union. Unfortunately, the story is behind their paywall.
Do not be fooled by the headline they wrote for this story — this is not an allegation of “sexual harassment.” The incident described in the story is sexual assault, and the circumstances give the clear impression that it was planned by Cuomo.
The staff member, whose identity is being withheld by the Times Union, had been called to the mansion under the apparent pretext of having her assist the governor with a minor technical issue involving his mobile phone. They were alone in Cuomo’s private residence on the second floor of the mansion when he closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her, according to the source.
The person, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the woman — who is much younger than Cuomo — told the governor to stop. Her broader allegations include that he frequently engaged in flirtatious behavior with her, and that it was not the only time that he had touched her.
The woman is not the person who is reporting this incident to the Times Union, so that is an important fact to keep in mind. She has never filed a complaint regarding the episode. Here is how the story describes the incident becoming known to members of Cuomo’s staff.
The woman’s story was revealed within the governor’s Executive Chamber on March 3, as staff members watched his first news conference in the week since Lindsey Boylan published an online essay detailing her own allegations against Cuomo. In the news conference, the governor denied ever touching any women “inappropriately.”
Hearing those remarks, the female aide became emotional. At least one female supervisor came to her aide and asked her why she was upset. The female aide subsequently told the supervisor what she said had been inappropriate encounters with Cuomo, the source said.
As the story indicates, this complicates the investigation that has now been initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The limit of her authority under New York law is to conduct an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct that might be in violation of various civil laws making such misconduct unlawful. Her authority does not extend to conducting a criminal investigation. That would be the responsibility of the Albany County District Attorney.
But this allegation takes Cuomo’s conduct to an entirely different level — unwanted and assaultive behavior of a sexual nature.
After the accusations first began to appear, additional stories started to surface regarding the tactics employed by Cuomo and his goons to keep his indiscretions in the past contained. My colleague Becca Lower covered that angle in this story yesterday.
The description of how the latest information came to light makes this newest allegation particularly compelling, and there is an inference that can be drawn that this young woman has kept the matters to herself out of fear of retribution by Cuomo’s supporters and staff. There was no planning or public telling of the story here — the victim became emotional watching Cuomo tell the world that he had never inappropriately touched any female subordinate — she was keeping a secret which she knew would make Cuomo out to be a liar and a serial harasser/assaulter if she came forward. At that moment, watching him on TV and knowing he was lying, the emotions beneath the surface were too much for her to contain.
The allegations against Cuomo have all built upon one another in a mutually validating fashion for the past two weeks. There is no evidence of any coordination or allegiance among these women with respect to the specifics of their stories or the manner in which they have come to light. They have simply endured similar experiences at the hands of the Governor and found courage in the strength of the others to speak out.
The Democrat establishment in New York has no reason to stick with Cuomo in his effort to obtain a fourth term. He will have Democrat opponents in the primary. There might not be outright abandonment of him by Democrat party interest groups until they know who they will throw their support behind — who is going to promise them the most.
But Andrew Cuomo’s days in office are numbered. It’s not a question of “if” any longer, only a question of when.