New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to resign next week in a swift fall from power following publication of a state attorney general report detailing his sexual harassment of eleven women. Over his long history in New York politics, much has been made of Cuomo’s relationship with his father, Mario Cuomo, famously also a governor. But behind the younger Cuomo also stood another powerful figure, one who plays a large role in his downfall.
Bill Clinton plucked Mario Cuomo’s son from filial obscurity and established him on the national stage, first as an assistant secretary at Housing and Urban Development and later as a Cabinet-level HUD secretary. Andrew Cuomo and the Clintons remained close through the decades, a mutually beneficial political relationship. And Cuomo learned a few things about political survival watching Bill Clinton fend off multiple scandals during his presidency, including charges of sexual harassment. The Cuomo offensive in recent months, as his troubles deepened, has been straight from the Clinton playbook: deny, defame, and delay.
Examples are legion. Here are a few.
Bill Clinton’s denied reports of inappropriate behavior with White House intern Monica Lewinsky: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” he said to the American people on national television.
Andrew Cuomo denied the findings of the attorney general investigation: “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in an August 3 broadcast statement.
As to defamation, the Clinton record is replete with instances of White House aides and allies dragging innocent women through the gutter. When Arkansas state employee Paula Jones accused the president of forcing himself on her in a hotel room, Clinton unleashed a massive smear campaign. “Drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” said Clinton loyalist James Carville.
White House aide Sidney Blumenthal smeared Monica Lewinsky as a “stalker.”
Thanks to Judicial Watch, the world learned of the Clintons’ campaign to destroy the reputation of White House volunteer Kathleen Willey after she went public with charges that President Clinton grabbed her breasts and attempted to kiss her in an Oval Office meeting. A Judicial Watch lawsuit revealed that not only the president—but Mrs. Clinton and top Clinton aides as well—engineered the release of personal letters Ms. Willey sent to the president, in an attempt to discredit her.
Cuomo tried the same defamation play on state government employee Lindsey Boylan. The attorney general report says Cuomo repeatedly directed “harassing conduct” at Boylan.
The New York Times reported that after Boylan became the first to step forward with accusations of sexual harassment against the governor, the Cuomo administration swiftly released details of personnel records “outlining unflattering accounts of Ms. Boylan’s past actions as a boss and recommendations for disciplinary action against her.” The Times also noted that “people tied to the governor” started circulating a letter to former staff members that “was a full-on attack on Ms. Boylan’s credibility.”
Stonewalling, Bill Clinton was able to delay accountability past his successful 1996 re-election campaign and survived impeachment. He was held in civil contempt for his lies in court about Lewinsky and his law license was suspended, but never faced charges on any of the allegations of sexual misconduct.
With impeachment by the New York State Assembly looming, Andrew Cuomo set off down the same path. Cuomo has “determined in recent days that his best chance at political survival is to drag out the process,” the Times reported, citing administration insiders.
But by then it was too late. Cuomo had none of Clinton’s slick charm. Abrasive, a bully and a screamer, Cuomo never learned to treat people with respect on his way up. On his way down, fellow Democrats quickly abandoned him.
He will leave office August 24.