Things Continue To Go Very Poorly for Andrew Cuomo
**Content warning: Descriptions of sexual assault.**
It’s been nearly a week since New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that Governor Andrew Cuomo had been found to have violated state and federal laws by harassing female employees and creating a hostile work environment. And despite releasing a bizarre slideshow featuring pictures of himself hugging and kissing basically everyone he’s ever met, Cuomo’s troubles have not disappeared as he might have hoped.
A woman who was previously referred to only as “Executive Assistant #1” has spoken publicly for the first time about her experience working for Cuomo. Speaking in a joint interview with CBS This Morning and the Albany Times Union, Brittany Commisso said that working for the governor “was a dream job. And it unfortunately turned into a nightmare.”
Commisso describes a culture of harassment fostered by Cuomo, who she says repeatedly expressed opinions about her appearance. (She shouldn’t wear her hair up, she should show “some leg,” etc.) She also says that Cuomo groped her on two separate occasions nearly a year apart.
The first time, she was trying to take a selfie with him.
“He was to my left. I was on the right. With my right hand, I took the selfie,” she said. “I then felt while taking the selfie, his hand go down my back onto my butt, and he started rubbing it. Not sliding it. Not, you know, quickly brushing over it—rubbing my butt.”
The second time, she says she was with Cuomo in the governor’s mansion, where multiple other women have reported being sexually assaulted or harassed by him. (Cuomo has denied all of these accusations.)
Commisso says the governor hugged her in a “sexually aggressive manner.” She says Cuomo then shut the door and “came back to me and that’s when he put his hand up my blouse and cupped my breast over my bra.”
In addition to cooperating with the investigation into Cuomo’s behavior, Commisso has also filed a criminal complaint against him.
Meanwhile, Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide who has been referred to as his “enforcer,” has resigned. She released a statement thanking her “talented and committed colleagues,” adding, “Personally, the past 2 years have been emotionally and mentally trying,” presumably referencing the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement does not mention Cuomo’s name.
DeRosa has been accused of enabling Cuomo’s predatory behavior by fueling the “culture of fear” that has reportedly permeated his office. She has also been accused of leading a retaliatory smear campaign against Lindsey Boylan after she came forward with accusations against the governor. New York Magazine writes:
DeRosa was the key person leading what investigators deemed to be a retaliation campaign by the administration against Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide and the first woman to publicly accuse the governor of sexual harassment. DeRosa, according to the report, sent several journalists Boylan’s personnel record, including internal complaints meant to undermine her credibility. James’s office determined that sharing such confidential records violated laws designed to protect sexual-harassment accusers from retaliation. The inquiry also found that DeRosa, the daughter of a powerful Albany lobbyist, developed the governor’s political defense as the allegations mounted last spring, including an effort to pressure a former staffer to call and record a state employee who had supported Boylan publicly to see what information she may have possessed.
Time’s Up board co-chair Roberta Kaplan has also resigned after it was revealed that DeRosa sent a draft of a letter smearing Boylan to Kaplan to review. According to the AG’s report, Kaplan told Boylan to remove “statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues,” but that otherwise, the letter calling her character into question and sharing confidential information as retaliation for her public allegations was fine to send out. (Again, according to James, it was not. It was illegal.)
New York lawmakers are moving ahead with impeachment proceedings, although they are taking their time in reviewing the evidence in the case against Cuomo—evidence which now officially includes Cuomo’s own response video, weird slideshow and all.
(image: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)
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