A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday accused him of sexual harassment, claiming that the governor repeatedly made inappropriate comments, engaged in unwanted touching, and on one occasion kissed her on the lips without her consent.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected,” Lindsey Boylan, the former aide wrote in a post for the website Medium. “His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”
Boylan first accused Gov. Cuomo of sexual harassment in December with a series of tweets saying he “sexually harassed me for years,” adding that, “many saw it and watched.” Wednesday’s post was the first time she addressed her experience in detail.
Boylan said she was first warned to “be careful around the Governor” when she joined the state government as a Vice President at Empire State Development in 2015. Soon thereafter she said she was informed by her boss that Cuomo had a “crush” on her.
She provided a screenshot of an email from Stephanie Benton, the director of the governor’s offices, telling Boylan that the governor thought she looked like a prettier version of his rumored ex-girlfriend.
“He said look up Lisa Shields,” the email from Benton read. “You could be sisters. Except you’re the better looking sister.”
Afterward, she said Gov. Cuomo began referring to her as “Lisa” in front of her colleagues, calling it “degrading.”
Boylan also says she told her family and close friends about the inappropriate conduct, saying that “the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” and claiming that his senior staff “began keeping tabs on my whereabouts.”
According to Boylan, she didn’t come to “truly fear” Cuomo until a Dec. 2016 holiday party at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. During the party, she received a call from the Governor’s body person telling her to come to the Capitol—which was linked by underground tunnel to the convention center— to see the governor.
I exited the elevator to see the body person waiting for me. He walked me down the Hall of Governors. “Are there cameras here?” I asked him. I remembered my mother’s text warning the month before. I worried that I would be left alone with the Governor. I didn’t know why I was there. Or how it would end.
I was escorted into the Governor’s office, past the desks of administrative assistants and into a room with a large table and historical artifacts. The door closed behind me. It was my first time in his Albany office. The Governor entered the room from another door. We were alone.
As he showed me around, I tried to maintain my distance. He paused at one point and smirked as he showed off a cigar box. He told me that President Clinton had given it to him while he served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The two-decade old reference to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not lost on me.
The Governor must have sensed my fear because he finally let me out of the office. I tried to rationalize this incident in my head. At least he didn’t touch me. That made me feel safer.
She also alleged that in 2018 she had a one-on-one meeting with Gov. Cuomo in his New York City office where he kissed her without her consent.
“As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking,” she wrote. “I left past the desk of Stephanie Benton. I was scared she had seen the kiss. The idea that someone might think I held my high-ranking position because of the Governor’s ‘crush’ on me was more demeaning than the kiss itself.”
Although she believes the governor’s team will work hard to smear her, Boylan said she was “compelled” to tell her story because “no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation — not by the Governor or anyone else.”
Boylan is currently a candidate for Manhattan borough president.
Law&Crime reached out to Gov. Cuomo’s office for comment.
A statement was released later by Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard and was attributed to John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever and Abbey Fashouer Collins. They denied the allegations.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” the joint statement began. “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”
Cuomo denied the accusations in the past.
Cuomo remains under increasing scrutiny surrounding his handling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
[image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
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