Once hailed as the face of governing competence for his handling of the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo now grapples with growing criticism, even from within his own party.
However, the controversy is not the only issue Cuomo has recently come under fire for after a state attorney general report revealed his administration drastically misrepresented how many New York nursing home residents died of COVID-19 last year.
Here’s a timeline of what happened and when.
Dec. 13, 2020
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Cuomo who is running for Manhattan borough president, accused the governor of sexual harassment in a Twitter thread. Boylan tweeted that she was sexually harassed by Cuomo “for years.” At the time, Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard said there was “simply no truth to these claims.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report on nursing home deaths and policies related to the coronavirus pandemic. James found the Cuomo administration vastly underreported nursing home deaths, according to the report. Her office also made a number of other conclusions about questionable policy, including a legal immunity provision put into the 2020-21 state budget for nursing home and hospital executives.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, who became a powerful figure in the Cuomo administration during the pandemic, had a controversial phone call with Democratic state lawmakers. She allegedly told lawmakers that the governor’s office “froze” when it received legislative requests about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes for fear the data would be used as a political weapon.
In the days that followed, DeRosa and Cuomo clarified they meant that requests from the state Legislature were frozen so that requests from the Department of Justice could be fulfilled. Cuomo insisted lawmakers were told this was happening, which many denied. He also began to assert his only mistake on nursing homes was not correcting misinformation, which left a “void” political opponents filled with false conspiracies.
Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat from Queens and an outspoken critic of Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes, alleged he received a threatening phone call from the governor. Kim said Cuomo threatened to end his career if he did not issue a statement retracting some of his criticism. Cuomo’s office denied the characterization of the call. Multiple lawmakers and political journalists then came forward to tell stories about bullying behavior from the governor’s office. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi described it as “the worst kept secret” in Albany.
It became clear the Department of Justice was investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes related to the pandemic. However, Cuomo continued to downplay this as a political investigation launched against Democratic governors during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Lindsey Boylan published additional details regarding alleged sexual harassment by Cuomo, including a forced kiss. The governor, as he did in December, said he respects the rights of women to come forward, but flatly denied Boylan’s allegations.
A second former staffer, Charlotte Bennett, came forward and accused Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bennett said the governor asked her invasive questions about her personal and sexual life.
Cuomo issued a flurry of statements, at first attempting to select an attorney to conduct a review of his actions, as well as an apology that was widely criticized. The governor then agreed to allow the state attorney general to hire an independent law firm to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Office of the Governor formally transmitted a letter to the Office of the Attorney General authorizing an investigation, cooperation of state employees and a public report.
On the same day, a third accuser came forward to the New York Times. Anna Ruch accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior at a wedding. Unlike Boylan and Bennet, Ruch was not an employee of Cuomo’s at the time the alleged harassment occurred. Her account of aggressive behavior was supported by witnesses, contemporaneous text messages and a picture.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced they plan to introduce legislation to strip emergency powers from Cuomo. These powers were granted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.