Andrew Cuomo's sexual harassment.

The attorney general's report is damning.
Isaac Saul Aug 4, 2021
️I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 9 minutes.

The report on Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations. Plus, a question about think tanks drafting legislation for Republicans.

Diana Robinson / Flickr

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Quick hits.

  1. Mike Carey, a coal lobbyist backed by former President Donald Trump, won a Republican primary election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional district. Meanwhile, Shontel Brown upset the Bernie Sanders-backed Nina Turner in a Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th district. (Read the story)
  2. The Biden administration announced another temporary ban on evictions until October 3 after pressure from liberal House Democrats. (Read the story)
  3. The FDA is aiming to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine by early next month. (Read the story)
  4. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson pardoned Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who became infamous after pointing their guns at passing protesters. (Read the story)
  5. A fourth police officer who responded to the January 6 attacks at the Capitol has died by suicide. (Read the story)

What D.C. is talking about.

Governor Andrew Cuomo. Yesterday, New York State attorney general Letitia James released a 165 page report into allegations that Gov. Cuomo had sexually harassed staffers and state employees. The report said Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including former and current government workers, with unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and inappropriate comments.

The report was the result of a five-month investigation and unearthed at least three instances of previously unreported sexual harassment, including a state trooper assigned to Cuomo’s detail who said he had run his hands across her stomach and back, and once inquired as to why she didn’t wear a dress to work. One executive assistant alleged the governor grabbed her butt during photos at the Executive Mansion and once reached under her blouse during a hug and grabbed her breast.

“The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments,” James, a Democrat, said during a news conference in Manhattan. “I believe these women.”

The political blowback from the report was swift. President Joe Biden urged Cuomo to resign, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom were once political allies. In a joint statement, the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island all urged Cuomo to step down.

Cuomo denied the allegations. “To touch a woman’s breast who I hardly know, in the Mansion, with ten staff around, with my family in the Mansion, to say ‘I don’t care who sees us.’ … I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing,” he told investigators about the allegations from an executive assistant. Shortly after the report dropped, he released a pre-recorded message that included blanket denials, and has indicated he will refuse to step down. Cuomo said he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate advances.”

“I do kiss people on the hand,” Mr. Cuomo said on Tuesday. “I do embrace people. I do hug people, men and women. I do on occasion say ‘Ciao, bella.’ On occasion, I do slip and say ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’ or ‘honey.’”

Below, we’ll take a look at responses from the right and left to the report. Then my take.


What the right is saying.

The right is calling for Cuomo to resign or be impeached.

“Every now and then, it’s important to make blindingly obvious, ridiculously simple arguments,” David French said. “Here’s mine for today. New York Democrats should impeach Andrew Cuomo. Impeachment isn’t just deserved on the merits; it would also represent an important step towards reclaiming America’s institutional integrity and partisan responsibility.” French summarizes the assaults and harassment, but also writes that “other alleged conduct falls under classic definitions of sexual harassment and constitutes behavior that—although it isn’t exactly a legal term of art—can only be described as creepy. Cuomo is described running his finger down the center of Trooper #1’s back from the top of her neck down to the center of her spine while saying, ‘hey you.’ In another instance, he allegedly pressed and ran his fingers across the chest [of] Virginia Limmiatis … while reading the name of her company (which was written across the chest).

“So far, the Democratic response to the report has been encouraging,” French said. “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Cuomo to resign. So did Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. And as I typed this newsletter, President Joe Biden issued his own call for Cuomo to step down. All of that is important. All of that is welcome. But what if Cuomo decides to stay? It will then be vital for New York Democrats to buckle down and impeach him. It’s imperative that they toss Cuomo from office. This is not just a matter of justice for the women he allegedly harassed; it’s a matter of important national hygiene.”

The New York Post editorial board said Cuomo has to go — right now.

“The case for his departure — whether voluntary or forced — was clear long before state Attorney General Letitia James released her damning report Tuesday,” The Post editors said. “Now there’s no longer any excuse for delay. Even Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who oversees impeachment proceedings but who has until now practically broken his back trying to protect the gov, admitted that Cuomo’s ‘conduct,’ as outlined in James’ report, ‘would indicate someone who is not fit for office.’ Heastie called the victims’ details ‘gut-wrenching’ and said Cuomo has ‘lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority’ and ‘can no longer remain in office.’

“Let’s face it: It’s going to be impossible for the governor to continue running New York government — especially at such a crucial moment — following James’ report alone,” they wrote. “Yet as bad as the findings are, they don’t even touch on his numerous other scandals — most notably, his order for nursing homes to accept COVID-contagious patients, and then his coverup of the actual number of residents of those homes who died of the disease.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board said “we’re about to find out if Democrats believe what they say about having no tolerance for sexual harassment.”

“If they do, then they have little choice other than to move to impeach Andrew Cuomo as Governor of New York,” they wrote. “No corporate CEO, or even a junior executive, would survive in the job amid the trail of bullying, groping, leering, unwanted kissing, and suggestive come-ons recorded in the report by six lawyers at two law firms. In one instance, the report says, Mr. Cuomo noticed a female state trooper he fancied at a public event, had her transferred to his personal protective detail though she lacked the necessary minimum tenure, then ‘sexually harassed her on a number of occasions.’

“Mr. Cuomo denies some of the allegations and explains others as the too affectionate style of an old-school man,” they wrote. “He says the women misinterpreted what he meant as compliments. That’s hard to believe when there are so many accusers and the report cites others who described an office culture that was ‘filled with fear and intimidation’ and ‘contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist.’”


What the left is saying.

The left is calling for Cuomo to resign or be impeached.

The New York Times editorial board called on Cuomo to resign.

“From the report, for which investigators interviewed 179 witnesses and gathered more than 74,000 pieces of evidence, two things are clear. First, Mr. Cuomo may yet face legal consequences for his alleged actions, which include a yearslong pattern of ‘unwelcome and nonconsensual touching,’ ‘offensive comments’ and other improper behavior toward at least 11 women, several on his staff,” the board said. “Second, regardless of what may happen in a court of law, the governor has only one conscionable option left: He should resign.”

“Mr. Cuomo continues to deny that he did anything wrong, suggesting that all the women who have come forward somehow misinterpreted his touching and physicality in the same way,” they wrote. “‘I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view,’ he said in a recorded video released shortly after the report came out. ‘That is just not who I am.’ He failed to note that many of the allegations against him involve conduct that happened not in public but behind closed doors, in elevators or over the phone. Most people would object to the behaviors detailed here, but the fact that it was coming from the most powerful person in New York State, often toward direct subordinates, makes it all the more disturbing.”

In The New Republic, Alex Shephard said Cuomo sank “to a new low.”

“Cuomo responded to this crisis of his own making with a prerecorded video that was depraved even by the standards of recent American politics,” Shephard wrote. “Cuomo insisted that, in spite of the detailed report from the state’s attorney general, ‘the facts are much different from what has been portrayed.’ Then the slideshow started. Images flashed by of Cuomo hugging supporters and friends, including Robert De Niro, Charlie Rangel, and Al Gore. ‘I do it with everyone,’ Cuomo said.  ‘Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.’ … But this was quite a hill for Cuomo to mount a defense atop: He couldn’t have committed sexual harassment or created a hostile work environment because he was such an inveterate kisser, hugger, and toucher of others.

“Cuomo now more completely resembles a diligent student of the Trump playbook,” Shephard added. “He has vigorously denied the allegations, gaslighted his victims and the public, and refused to give an inch. He has held onto his post with a level of shamelessness rarely seen in American politics—with the exception of the twice-impeached former president. He has consistently damaged the Democratic Party’s credibility on sexual harassment and what little remains of his own reputation.”

Elizabeth Spiers wrote about how Cuomo got away with it for so long.

“Men who unapologetically harass women believe on some level that they are entitled to sexual attention from the women they harass,” Spiers wrote. “Instead, they offer mealy-mouthed statements that technically include the words ‘I’m sorry’ but terminate in some variation of ‘that your feelings were hurt.’ … Perversely, his abrasiveness may have given him a sort of immunity to consequences until now, at least when it comes to his public image. Any time he exhibits terrible interpersonal behavior, it can be regarded as an intrinsic part of his personality. He’s established a reputation as a jerk who treats people badly, so people shrug when he proves, yet again, that he is a jerk who treats people badly. His behavior is normalized because it seems normal for Andrew Cuomo.

“It’s also worth noting that some New Yorkers like the idea of a tough guy with sharp elbows in office because they conflate toughness with resiliency and sometimes fail to notice that what appears to be toughness may just be a lack of empathy,” she wrote. “If the stereotype of New Yorkers is that they are all rude, brash, in-your-face personalities with New York City-size egos, Mr. Cuomo fits the bill.”


My take.

It surely won’t surprise you where I land: he should resign, and if he doesn’t, he should be impeached. Which makes it unanimous.

There’s no need for heterodox thinking here. I called for Cuomo to resign in February when it became clear he was lying to the public about the seriousness of his mistakes during Covid-19. These allegations are similarly disgusting, and there is such a preponderance of evidence I’m not even sure it’s appropriate to call them allegations anymore. He didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. He didn’t make a mistake or inadvertently call a woman “honey.” He harassed his employees — while holding one of the most powerful offices in the country — for years, unapologetically and while using threats and the power of his office to protect himself from repercussions.

Cuomo is an embarrassment.  At the best, he’s a creepy, power-hungry bully who has ruined dozens of womens’ jobs, done untold damage to the credibility of his office and completely lost any authority or power to run the state. At the worst, he’s a sexual predator and perhaps a criminal governor who published a book about how great his Covid-19 response was while covering up the decisions he made that could have killed hundreds — if not thousands — of New Yorkers.

He’s cooked. He should do himself (and us) a favor and step down with whatever shred of dignity he can muster before New York state Democrats do it for him. In the meantime, maybe we can just enjoy the fact that we all agree on something.


Your questions, answered.

Q: What is your understanding and your take on the think tanks that have developed and pushed out policies and legislation to Republican-controlled state legislatures for them to pass; legislation on things like transgender issues and more restrictive voting laws?

— Martha, Red Lodge, Montana

Tangle: This is a really big topic in political circles right now. The famous example is the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a network of red-state legislators who work hand in hand with conservative donors, advocacy groups and private-sector businesses. Essentially, these groups craft legislation together that is then passed to their representatives in the halls of Congress or state legislatures for approval and enactment.

The obvious point here is this is not how it’s supposed to work. Legislators are supposed to craft legislation. But Alex Hertel-Fernandez, who wrote a book heavily focused on ALEC, has said journalists mischaracterize it as a front group for big businesses when it’s actually a political coalition.

It’s even an issue in your state, Montana, where dozens of Republican lawmakers are ALEC members and attend its conferences.

For me, the really troubling part is just how much access these members get —especially when compared to constituents — and how legislation ends up reflecting that. But I also don’t think groups like this should be banned or illegal; nor do I think business owners or political coalitions somehow lack the right to try to exert influence on politicians. What’s most troubling is the fact that politicians need their money, so this small number of donors becomes far more influential on how they act than the thousands or even millions of constituents they’re meant to be serving.

If you want to ask a question to be answered in the newsletter, you can simply reply to this email and write in. It goes straight to my inbox. You can also fill out this form.


A story that matters.

Violent crime is going up in major cities across America. But explaining how or why has become a major challenge not just for journalists, but for criminologists, police, activists and academics. It’s been difficult to find nuanced journalism that embraces the multiple factors at play, but a recent ProPublica report is just that: it examines one city, Philadelphia, and goes long on all the factors at play that have resulted in its violent crime rate returning to 1990s levels. I am being cautious not to summarize it, given the complexity of the topic, but it’s worth your time. (ProPublica)


Numbers.

  • 63%. The percentage of New Yorkers who say Andrew Cuomo should resign.
  • 80%. The percentage of New York voters who say he should not be re-elected.
  • 90%. The percentage of the U.S. population living in areas that will be impacted by the new eviction moratorium.
  • 149,788. The number of new Covid-19 cases reported in the U.S. yesterday.
  • 52%. The percentage of Americans who at least somewhat support instituting or reinstituting mask mandates and social distancing guidelines in their states.

Have a nice day.

This week, Iraq reclaimed 17,000 pieces of looted artifacts that had been stolen from the country and brought overseas. The artifacts were returned by a prominent museum and an Ivy League university in the largest ever repatriation of looted Iraqi antiquities, which included thousands of clay tablets and seals from ancient Mesopotamia. “This is not just about thousands of tablets coming back to Iraq again — it is about the Iraqi people,” Hassan Nadhem, the Iraqi minister of culture, tourism and antiquities, said in a telephone interview. “It restores not just the tablets, but the confidence of the Iraqi people by enhancing and supporting the Iraqi identity in these difficult times.” (The New York Times, subscription)

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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Buck County, PA — one of the most politically divisive counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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