6th Woman Accuses N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Of Inappropriate Sexual Conduct
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A sixth woman is now accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate sexual conduct. Last night, the Times Union in Albany published her account, the latest and most explosive allegation yet. So far, five women Cuomo worked with and one he had just met at a wedding have come forward.
Gwynne Hogan from member station WNYC has been following all the developments and joins us now. Gwynne, thanks for being here. What can you tell us about the latest allegation?
GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Yeah, so last night, more details emerged in reporting from the Times Union about this sixth woman. She is a current staffer, and the alleged incident occurred late last year. Now, according to their report, she told her supervisor she was summoned to the governor's mansion, ostensibly to help him with minor technical issues with his phone. And according to this report, Cuomo then proceeded to aggressively grope her under her blouse.
Now, this is the most severe allegation against the governor so far, and the publication is not naming the woman. In response to this latest report, Cuomo's office has - insists that he's never done anything like this.
MARTIN: So now, as we noted, the number of women who have accused the governor has grown to six. Why is all this coming up now?
HOGAN: Well, Cuomo, you know, he developed a national profile at the height of the pandemic last year for his briefings. But here in New York, he's had a long-established reputation for hardball politics, and many people were afraid to speak out against him. But he had been facing mounting scrutiny for deliberately obscuring the full tally of nursing home deaths caused by COVID. Then, assembly member Ron Kim, who is a Democrat from Queens, went to reporters last month describing a bullying phone call he got from the governor threatening to destroy him.
And almost overnight, that fear of speaking out sort of dissipated. Since then, a barrage of similar stories have emerged about aggressive phone calls from Cuomo and his top aides. And when that shift happened, Lindsey Boylan says she felt emboldened to speak publicly about the sexual harassment she says she experienced while working for Cuomo. And she was the first woman to step forward about two weeks ago.
MARTIN: So you've been talking to another one of the women about alleged inappropriate conduct by Cuomo. Her name is Ana Liss. Can you tell us about her?
HOGAN: Sure. Ana worked for Cuomo for two years up until 2015. And she says a staffer told her Cuomo liked blondes, that she should wear heels when he was in the office. Cuomo would kiss her on the cheek regularly and often commented on her appearance, asked personal questions like if she had a boyfriend. Now, she wasn't as explicitly propositioned as some of the other women, but she says she now feels like it's part of a pattern.
ANA LISS: Like what happened to me was on a slippery slope. I remember reading it, and I was like, thank God I wasn't higher up. Thank God I wasn't around him alone by myself. Thank God he didn't take me seriously.
MARTIN: So now Cuomo's facing all these calls for him to resign, right? Notably, the head of the New York State Senate, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has joined this chorus. What's the governor saying?
HOGAN: Well, up until at least yesterday, Cuomo had really brushed off those calls. He says leaving his post would be anti-democratic since voters elected him to serve a four-year term. And he says allegations are just that - allegations. But at some point, Rachel, the combined weight of all these accounts may make his political future untenable.
MARTIN: Gwynne Hogan from member station WNYC, we appreciate you bringing your reporting to us.
HOGAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.