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Before NY AG report, Andrew Cuomo long claimed to be a champion against sexual harassment and attacked GOP politicians for staying silent

By Em Steck, Andrew Kaczynski and Drew Myers, CNN

Long before a new report detailed sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s top Democrat touted himself as a strong supporter of women’s rights and advocated for a “zero tolerance” policy against sexual harassment.

That stands at odds with the report released Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which detailed allegations from 11 women claiming sexual harassment by the Democratic governor, stating that investigators found all women —which include current and past state employees as well as nongovernment workers — to be credible. The report concludes that Cuomo engaged in “unwelcome and non-consensual touching,” made offensive and “suggestive” comments of a sexual nature and created a “hostile work environment for women.”

Cuomo strongly denied the allegations on Tuesday, saying he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.” His office released an 85-page rebuttal to the investigation, including more than a dozen photos of Cuomo hugging and embracing men and women.

During his re-election campaign in 2018, he ran ads promoting that New York had “the strongest sexual harassment policy in the nation.” And as governor, he spoke out against New York democratic and national conservative figures accused of sexual misconduct, including former President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The report, and his past rhetoric, open the long-serving New York governor to charges of hypocrisy. A CNN KFile dive into his statements over the years reveal that his alleged actions would not match up with the high standards of his lofty rhetoric against sexual harassment.

Here’s what Cuomo has said over the years:

Cuomo repeatedly spoke in support for victims of sexual harassment

  • In May 2013, after a sexual harassment scandal with a New York Assemblyman, the governor tweeted, “There should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.”
  • At a festival in 2018, Cuomo said, ​​”We want equal justice for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and for all victims of sexual assault.” Ford, a California professor, accused then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Kavanaugh of committing sexual assault against her when the two were in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
  • Following the Senate’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Cuomo released a statement that said “we believe” all survivors of sexual assault. “In New York, we will not waver and will not back down. To Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual assault, we believe you and we will fight for you. The sham FBI investigation and the bigger sham, this confirmation process, have energized us to fight even harder for our shared vision for a better future for all,” he said.

Cuomo attacked Republican politicians for not speaking out against sexual harassment and assault

  • In October 2016, after the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump was heard making crude comments about women and sexual assault, Cuomo called Trump’s rhetoric “disgusting on a basic human level” in an interview with NY1 and said “that’s not how you treat women, that’s not how you talk about women. It’s not OK.”
  • The governor then chastised Republicans who stood behind Trump and his rhetoric: “Any Republican politician in this state who continues to stand with Trump is going to be seated very soon in the political arena because no New Yorker will tolerate this.” He later added, “I think the politicians might be putting their politics before the people. The Republican politicians may be putting their party loyalty before the people, but it’s a mistake.” Cuomo said the people of New York should distance themselves from this behavior as it has “no place in our politics or in our society.”
  • In the summer of 2018, in a Facebook post, Cuomo criticized then-President Trump for mocking MeToo survivors: “​​While Trump mocks the strong women who stood up to sexual harassment, in NY, we are turning society’s revulsion into reform by passing the strongest sexual harassment law. NY will always lead.”
  • During his 2018 re-election campaign, Cuomo promoted a video ad on Facebook in October 2018 attacking his Republican opponent Marc Molinaro and questioned whether the Republican supported Kavanaugh, then a Supreme Court Justice nominee. “New Yorkers need a Governor who stands up for women and survivors of sexual abuse. Republican Nominee for Governor Marc Molinaro refuses to say if he does or does not support elevating Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That’s not leadership, it’s cowardice,” the ad caption says.

Cuomo called for the resignation of politicians who were accused of sexual harassment and assault

  • After The New Yorker published the accounts of four women who accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of sexual assault and physical abuse in May 2018, Cuomo called on his attorney general to resign. He also asked the New York district attorney’s office to launch an investigation into the allegations.
  • “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer,” said Cuomo in a press release. “My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General, and for the good of the office, he should resign.” Schneiderman denied the allegations.

Cuomo touted legislation he signed that supported of victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault

  • In April 2018, Cuomo celebrated passing a package aimed at tackling sexual harassment that directed his administration to develop criteria for a model workplace sexual harassment policy that all public and private employers in the state would have to adopt. Companies were required to implement a policy that “clearly [states] that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.” In the New York attorney general’s report released Tuesday, Cuomo is accused of retaliation against his victims, violating his own administration’s sexual harassment policy.
  • During Cuomo’s 2018 re-election campaign, Cuomo ran two Facebook ads touting his state’s workplace policy as “the strongest sexual harassment policy in the nation.” Talking about new sexual harassment laws the state passed in 2018, Cuomo said, “Sexual harassment of women is real, it is undeniable, and this is the moment in history to make the reform and end it and end it once and for all, and New York is going to be the state to do it. It ends here and it ends now.”
  • In late December 2018, Cuomo signed into law a bill that called for state agencies to establish a sexual assault victim bill of rights.
  • On August 12, 2019, Cuomo signed legislation amending the New York Human Rights Law to make clear that sexual harassment need not be “severe or pervasive” to constitute actionable conduct.

Cuomo deflected criticism for comments and actions he took in the aftermath of the “MeToo” Movement

  • In early 2019, Cuomo jokingly told reporters that he needed space and that he would “bring [them] all up on charges under the ‘Me Too’ movement.” He later defended the joke by calling the remark an “offhand comment” in a radio interview with WAMC, as reported by the Democrat and Chronicle.
  • Cuomo told a reporter in December 2017 that she was doing a “disservice to women” for asking what his administration was doing to confront sexual harassment issues in the government.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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