Governor Cuomo, Sexual Harassment, and Senator Gillibrand’s Silence

“Gillibrand took an immediate and strong stand against Al Franken
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Photos: Wikimedia Commons\YouTube

The Nation's Alexis Grenell is challenging New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on he relative silence regarding the growing sexual harassment scandal that is engulfing Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo faces a deluge of bad headlines as more and more people come forward with stories about corruption, Covid, and workplace harassment.

The Nation’s Alexis Grenell (@agrenell) is out with a new column noting that so far it’s mostly been young women with the least political capital taking all the fire. It appears the heavy-weights in the state have to be dragged out of hiding:

“Though she positioned herself as a warrior for women’s rights, the New York senator [Kirsten Gillibrand] hasn’t exactly been a profile in courage,” writes Grenell. “And before anyone claims it’s unfair to so closely scrutinize a woman vis-à-vis a man’s actions, this ain’t that. It’s entirely appropriate to expect a US senator who has positioned herself aggressively on women’s rights to offer more than drivel about her home state’s exploding scandals and the man at the center of it all.”

“The problem is that Gillibrand’s feminism is mostly a form of self-promotion, which really doesn’t do much for anyone else. Because it would cost Gillibrand something to put skin in the game, just like it’s costing the much more vulnerable female elected officials who’ve been out there swinging solo. Just like it’s costing the women half her age who’ve upended their lives and safety to speak truth to power.”

“Gillibrand took an immediate and strong stand against Al Franken for which she was repeatedly pilloried, both fairly and unfairly. It was a political calculus more than a principled stand, which Gillibrand never seemed to admit despite the fact that it paid off brilliantly in the midterms, thanks to a blue wave of women. That’s because Gillibrand likes to look like she’s taking a stand without actually taking one.,” she concludes. “There’s still time to prove me wrong.”

“[Cuomo’s] bad behavior goes beyond bullying to reveal a ‘toxic masculinity,’ wrote Grenell in 2016. “Particularly for women and children, who often serve as props in Cuomo’s performance.”

Responding to a similarly charged moment last fall, Grenell wrote: “Cuomo undeniably offered a vision of competent, humane government at the height of the crisis, but this is who he is the rest of the time. It’s why he and his staff reflexively insult anyone who criticizes his handling of the pandemic or insists on returning to the normal system of democratic governance as Jefferson envisioned it…. It all boils down to this: Any dissent is a partisan attack on our very lives, and Andrew Cuomo is our only hope.”

Read Grenell's full column here.

Editor's Note: A third woman has now come forward to accuse Governor Cuomo of unwanted sexual advances. Anna Ruch told the New York Times Mondays that Cuomo allegedly touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her during a wedding reception in 2019.

"I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed. I turned my head away and didn't have words in that moment," Ruch said.

Governor Cuomo has already been accused of sexual harassment by two former aides: Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett. Unlike Boylan and Bennett Ruch did not work for Cuomo.

On Monday, Bennett rejected Cuomo' recent apology that his behavior was misconstrued as sexual harassment saying Cuomo “has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior.”

In a statement Bennett also said:

“As we know, abusers – particularly those with tremendous amounts of power – are often repeat offenders who engage in manipulative tactics to diminish allegations, blame victims, deny wrongdoing and escape consequences. It took the governor 24 hours and significant backlash to allow for a truly independent investigation. These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood; they are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”

Alexis Grenell pens the new monthly Nation column, “Back Talk,” focused on gender, democracy, politics, media, and economics, and is a frequent voice on radio and television, including CNN, WNYC, and NY1. She began her career at City & State Magazine and the New York Daily News, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Newsday, the New York Post, and El Diario. As co-founder of consulting firm Pythia Public, Grenell works on issue and political campaigns, shaping policy agendas for non-governmental actors/organizations on issues ranging from campaign finance reform to redistricting, voting rights, immigrant rights, labor rights, and gender equality. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Grenell holds an MPA in Urban Policy from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life, from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

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