Both of the festering Andrew Cuomo scandals — his lies about nursing home deaths in New York and multiple allegations of sexual impropriety — stem from a lifetime of bullying others coupled with an outsize ego. An article in Vanity Fair by Michael Shnayerson, who covered Cuomo as a reporter and wrote a biography of the governor in 2015 called “The Contender,” validates that diagnosis.
In the piece, Shnayerson “recounts the governor’s checkered, bullying, spiteful past — and brings to light a hushed allegation of physical abuse.”
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo — serving as HUD’s assistant secretary and then as the youngest-ever head of the agency — did what he’d done as his father’s go-to guy in the governor’s mansion. He stuck close to his tight circle of insiders — and hammered a goodly number of underlings. He called older civil service staffers “white heads” (deriding their hair color as a sign of their advanced age) or “f**kheads” or “dumb f**ks.” He frequently threatened to fire outsiders. HUD’s inspector general, Susan Gaffney, was a woman who dared to speak up, so she became a target. In 1998 she would testify that Cuomo and his aides tried to smear her as a racist. (A Cuomo staffer at the time claimed her testimony to be “riddled with inaccuracies.”) Cuomo’s accusations against her grew only more pronounced as Gaffney produced management audits critical of his department, The Washington Post noted. He called her at home on weekends and lambasted her. “Tell me what it would take me to get you out,” he thundered. Gaffney also testified that Cuomo’s hostility had “led to a series of attacks and dirty tricks. … Someone needs to convince the secretary that I am not an adversary. I am trying to do my job.
That sounds like the Andrew Cuomo we know today, the one who threatened to destroy New York assemblyman Ron Kim’s career for having the gall to talk publicly about the COVID-19 nursing home scandal. In New York political circles, Cuomo has a reputation for making hostile phone calls, like the ones he made to Kim, often.
Shnayerson is not the only person to describe Cuomo’s bullying ways. As noted here, Alexis Grenell, Cuomo’s deputy director of intergovernmental affairs when he was New York State attorney general, wrote an op-ed for The Nation in 2020 in which she described the Governor as “a snarling attack dog who gaslights fellow Democrats and deploys staff to call his female critics “f*****g idiots.”
A recent New York magazine piece reports of Cuomo that “during his decade as governor, he … often strutted his thuggish paternalism while his top aides disparaged those who challenged him. Two years ago, a Cuomo spokesman called three female state lawmakers in his party ‘f**king idiots.’ In 2013, Cuomo created the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption, only to shut it down abruptly less than a year later amid allegations that he had obstructed its work.”
Though the multiple scandals erupting in Albany seem to toggle between sexualized harassment stories and evidence of mismanagement, what is emerging is in fact a single story: That through years of ruthless tactics, deployed both within his office and against anyone he perceived as an adversary, critic, or competitor for authority, Cuomo has fostered a culture that supported harassment, cruelty, and deception. [Emphasis added]
An article on sexual harassment in Psychology Today explains that the motivation for the abuse “stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control. In heterosexual and same-sex encounters, sex is the tool used to gain power over another person.”
Put it all together, and we are left with a portrait of a man familiar to many New Yorkers. Cuomo should not be in public office, nor does he have the personality to be a manager of any organization. His actions may lead to his being forced out of office via impeachment.
Cross-posted at The Lid