Facing mounting allegations of sexual misconduct and of promoting a toxic work environment, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) held a telephone press conference on Friday in which he again refused to resign, declaring that he had done nothing wrong and attacking the growing number of public officials calling for his resignation.
“The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance,” he said. “Politicians take positions for all sorts of reasons, including political expediency and bowing to pressure. But people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth.”
It wasn’t surprising that the three-term governor, infamous for his bullying and belligerence (and often celebrated for it), refused to resign — even as a growing list of lawmakers and public officials, including some allies, have called on him to step down. But Cuomo’s press conference was still breathtaking in its use of the all-too-familiar tactics deployed by famous public figures — the Harvey Weinsteins, the Donald Trumps and the Woody Allens (among many others) of the world — in response to misconduct or abuse allegations.
Cuomo followed the same playbook, including by denying the allegations, questioning the motivations of his accusers, claiming the incidents were all just a misunderstanding and suggesting that he is the victim of a smear campaign and “cancel culture.”
Over the last few weeks, the governor has repeatedly issued a blanket denial of all of the sexual misconduct allegations and an “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology. On Friday, he reiterated the denial and apology, insisting he did not believe he had done anything inappropriate.
At several points, he insinuated that the accusers were lying and suggested they had ulterior motives for coming forward — while also affirming that they had “a right to come forward and be heard” and that the allegations were “serious.”
“I won’t speculate on people’s possible motives, but … there are often many motivations for making an allegation, and that is why you need to know the facts before you make the decision,” he said.
“A lot of people allege a lot of things for a lot of reasons,” he added later.
He also insisted that there were various “opinions” about what happened and that “the facts” were different.
“There is still a question of the truth,” he said. “I did not do what has been alleged.”
At one point, Cuomo dodged a question about whether any of the incidents were consensual relationships by referring to how one of the interactions occurred at an event where he was photographed. Somehow, he spun it into a defense, saying he is constantly photographed in public.
“To the extent you get these people who say, ‘Well, he took a picture with me, and I was uncomfortable,’ I apologized for that,” he said. “Look, I took thousands of pictures… It’s not like they’re done in secret. They literally are being photographed. I mean, I am in crowds of hundreds of people when we’re taking these pictures. They stand on receiving lines for a long time to take the picture.” He went on to say that he was not informed until after the fact that he had been “inappropriate.”
Regardless of whether it’s in the moment or long after the incident, it is often challenging and distressing to call out a perpetrator — especially someone with significantly more power — for inappropriate or abusive behavior. Many people don’t do it at all for fear of potential retaliation.
Most ludicrously, Cuomo equated resigning to “bowing to cancel culture,” a phrase that has essentially become devoid of all meaning. Increasingly, it has instead become a catch-all expression of grievance — often in cases where someone is facing a measure of accountability for their actions.
More top lawmakers and public officials are calling for Cuomo’s resignation, and there are several investigations into his behavior underway, but he still might not face any consequences. So many powerful men who have been accused of or who have admitted to misconduct or abuse remain in power, while their accusers face often life-changing consequences for speaking out.
If anything, Cuomo — a powerful establishment figure from a powerful political dynasty — will continue to wield power, even if he feels he is being attacked and “canceled.”
“I am not going to argue this issue in the press. That is not how it is done,” he said Friday, despite holding a press conference to argue the issue.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.