The scathing report from the New York Attorney General's office into claims of sexual harassment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo toward nearly a dozen women also points to allegations of a toxic environment of intimidation and retaliation among the governor's staff.
Those staffers face allegations that they dug up dirt on accusers — and that's not all. According to the report, Cuomo's inner circle wasn’t just top executive chamber staff, as he also turned to outsiders. The report also said confidential information about some accusers was shared with those outsiders — all in an attempt to protect the governor, at the expense of his accusers.
For damage control, the report claims Cuomo turned to others for help, with top aide Melissa DeRosa chief among them. As Charlotte Bennett went public with her harassment, DeRosa was the one who was behind a plan to call Democratic county executives in an effort to sure up support for the governor, according to the report.
The man who made those calls was Cuomo friend and COVID vaccine distribution czar Larry Schwartz. Some of the county execs at the receiving end of the calls saw an implied threat that vaccine deliveries to their county could be on the line if they didn't line up to offer their support.
Schwartz, a longtime adviser and with past ties to county officials, on Wednesday said “my calls were political in nature, not about vaccines, in which distribution was based on a formula. No linkage existed and none was discussed.”
Another adviser was the governor's own brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. The report states that Chris was part of a group that was “regularly provided with confidential and often privileged information, all without any formal role, duty, or obligation to the state.”
But it was inside the executive offices that numerous Cuomo accusers reported feeling like there was nowhere to go, as the Cuomo team allegedly ruled by fear and retaliation.
"It starts with the environment. If you're living in a state of fear, of humiliation, of dehumanization, of abuse, the sexual harassment is actually just an additional piece onto that," Bennet said. "It's the idea that you can be sexually harassed and you have nowhere to go because the dynamics in the office are so toxic that it's actually just isolated."
Former aide Lindsay Boylan says the governor’s team leaked her personnel files in a desperate attempt to silence her. The AG’s report says no one on the Cuomo team “appears to have questioned, even for a moment, whether any of the governor’s interactions with Ms. Boylan may have been unwelcome and offensive,” and that the goal was to “protect and attack.”
In an 85-page rebuttal, Cuomo lawyer Rita Glavin said in part that Boylan was politically motivated. She said that the former aide was “threatening retribution against the governor while she was in the midst of a primary campaign” because she wrongly believed “the governor had issued an executive order aimed at hurting her campaign.”
The report also focused on one member of Cuomo’s legal team: special counsel Judy Mogul. She is in part criticized for failing to act properly on Bennett’s complaint, accused of not "advising Bennett how to file a formal complaint, never moving forward to report the harassment complaint to the employee relations department as required, or ever telling Bennett she would be protected from retaliation,' the report stated.
Attorney General Letitia James summed up the governor’s executive office conduct bluntly: "Governor Cuomo's administration fostered a toxic workplace."
Cuomo denied any wrongdoing on Tuesday. He made no public appearances on Wednesday, and did not issue any further statements. And the report by Cuomo’s lawyer says the attorney general's report is unfair, with comments taken out of context and that they “ignored the governor’s testimony and substantial corroborating evidence.”
Another longtime Cuomo ally named in the report is former special counsel Alphonso David. He was allegedly consulted by the Cuomo team as some accusations swirled, but on Tuesday night he tweeted after reading James' devastating report, saying that the governor should resign.