(Headline USA) With a massive scandal involving New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gaining steam, Democrats proved, yet again, that there are exceptions to their once non-negotiable demands to “believe all women.”
The sexual harassment allegations by at least two women were beginning to prove too much for Cuomo’s fellow leftists—and their mainstream-media allies—to continue ignoring, despite their best efforts last week to tamp down criticism.
Cuomo was already facing heat for the more outrageous revelation that he had covered up the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes after his controversial decision to force healthy and infected residence to co-mingle.
Democrats across the country long celebrated Cuomo as the face of governing competence while attempting to use him as a foil to what they considered a failed response by the Trump administration.
Cuomo, himself, led the partisan criticism, although he refused to accept the federal support that Trump offered as New York became the global epicenter of the virus in its early days.
Now, on top of the news that he under-counted nursing home deaths by an estimated 50%, the Democratic governor is also embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal—and it is testing the limits of his party’s support as Democrats grapple with one of the first political headaches of the post-Trump era.
So far, few Democrats have come to Cuomo’s rescue. But they haven’t explicitly condemned him, either.
Following the playbook used during Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s racist yearbook photo scandal, as well as President Joe Biden’s own scandal involving the alleged rape of a former congressional staffer, many appeared to be in “wait and see” mode.
On Monday, Biden, a longtime Cuomo ally, declined to stand behind the embattled governor.
White House press secretary Jenn Psaki said the president supports the state attorney general’s probe. She noted that Biden requires people to be treated with civility and respect in his administration.
“The president’s view has been consistent and clear,” Psaki said when asked about Cuomo. “Every woman coming forward should be treated with dignity and respect.”
Nonetheless, Cuomo’s own canned response while deflecting the initial allegations closely mirrored that of Biden when dodging the credible claims of his own alleged rape victim, Tara Reade.
Cuomo’s scandal likewise threatened the moral high ground that preening Democrats have sought to assert on issues related to gender and sexual harassment in the post-Bill Clinton era.
Citing Trump’s boorishness and perceived misogyny, the party actively courted women voters with orchestrated, well-funded activist displays like the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March.
But while facing their own scandals, those efforts appeared to have tapered off, some of them claiming in the aftermath of Biden’s rape scandal that they preferred to focus more broadly on social-justice issues, rather than those specifically related to female sexual assault.
Cuomo’s and Biden’s cases stood in contrast to the treatment of former Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who ultimately bowed to pressure from within his own party to step down in 2018 after facing accusations of sexual impropriety from several women during the height of the #MeToo frenzy.
At that time, New York Sen. Kisten Gillibrand was the first Democrat to call on Franken to resign.
On Sunday, Gillibrand called the allegations against Cuomo “serious and deeply concerning” and called on State Attorney General Letitia James to conduct “a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power.”
Republican women, on the other hand, were more than happy to condemn
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel offered a written statement seizing on Biden’s unwillingness to condemn Cuomo more forcefully.
“Biden claims he is this unifying leader, but if Cuomo is not worthy of his criticism, then who is?” McDaniel said, noting that Biden last year described Cuomo as the “gold standard” for his leadership through the pandemic.
Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.
In a written statement, he said he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”
But at least for now, Cuomo’s team doesn’t see any risk to his 2022 reelection.
“The notion that this has some larger ranging political impact beyond those who read the insider tip sheets I think is misguided,” said Cuomo pollster Jefrey Pollock.
“Anytime you have to deal with chaos, it always has the potential to impact a race,” Pollock said. “But right now, there is no race. There is nobody running against him. And in the past when there’s been much excitement about challengers, each one of them has been vanquished by a large margin.”
His allies continued to hold out hope that Democrats would, yet again, circle the wagon—unless they see him as dispensable in the hope of installing a more radical leader to the Empire State.
At least two Democratic lawmakers have called on Cuomo to resign, but the most aggressive early criticism has been confined to progressives who have tried and failed for years to defeat him.
His last primary challenge from the left came from actress Cynthia Nixon, whom Cuomo defeated by more than 30 points.
On Monday, Nixon encouraged Cuomo’s critics on social media and called out Gillibrand for not delivering a stronger rebuke.
“Cat got your tongue @SenGillibrand???” Nixon tweeted.
Gillibrand’s office had no immediate response.
Meanwhile, James, the state attorney general—and one of the possible candidates to replace the governor—said she’s moving forward with an investigation into the the allegations against Cuomo.
James said she received a letter from his office Monday authorizing her to take charge of the probe.
The referral letter allows James to deputize an outside law firm to conduct the inquiry with full subpoena power. However, she rejected that part of the letter and maintained that her own office had the authority to conduct it.
When the investigation is finished, the findings will be disclosed in a public report.
“Cuomo has been untouchable for a really long time,” said New York-based progressive strategist Sophie Ellman-Golan, of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, which has called for Cuomo’s resignation. “Our state deserves so much better.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press