The investigators found his denials “contrived.” They had company.
“I’m disgusted that Andrew Cuomo — a man who understands subtle power dynamics and power plays better than almost anyone in the planet — is giving this loopy excuse of not knowing he made women feel uncomfortable,” the senior official wrote in that March 2021 message to herself, after the governor had spoken publicly about Ms. Bennett’s allegations for the first time. “Either he knew exactly what he was doing (likely) or he is so narcissistic that he thought all women wanted these kinds of questions (crazy excuse even to write it).”
Such was the mind-warp that often visited people in Mr. Cuomo’s world, a kind of inescapable psychological warfare — with him, with colleagues, with oneself — that permeated his office, as if the collective discomfort fueled him in a grueling job.
“On the one hand, he makes all this inappropriate and creepy behavior normal and like you should not complain,” Alyssa McGrath, an executive assistant, told investigators. “On the other hand, you see people get punished and screamed at if you do anything where you disagree with him or his top aides.”
Understand the Scandals Challenging Gov. Cuomo’s LeadershipCard 1 of 5
Results of an independent investigation. An independent inquiry, overseen by Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, found that Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former government workers, breaking state and federal laws. The report also found that he retaliated against at least one of the women for making her complaints public.
Nursing home death controversy. The Cuomo administration is also under fire for undercounting the number of nursing-home deaths caused by Covid-19 in the first half of 2020, a scandal that deepened after a Times investigation found that aides rewrote a health department report to hide the real number.
Efforts to obscure the death toll. Interviews and unearthed documents revealed in April that aides repeatedly overruled state health officials in releasing the true nursing home death toll over a span of at least five months. Several senior health officials have resigned in response to the governor’s overall handling of the virus crisis, including the vaccine rollout.
Ana Liss, a former aide in the executive chamber, who felt she had been treated as “eye candy,” said she had come forward to describe what she considered minor transgressions because she believed a “tolerance for those micro flirtations” had created a permission structure for Mr. Cuomo to “act a certain way behind closed doors with women in more serious manners.”
Often enough, witnesses recounted, a sort of wink-wink aside accompanied the unwanted touching, an apparent attempt by the governor to enshrine the groping as shared mischief.
In May 2017, a woman working for an energy company, Virginia Limmiatis, encountered Mr. Cuomo on a rope line at a conservation event. She wore a shirt bearing her employer’s name. “When the governor reached Ms. Limmiatis, he ran two fingers across her chest, pressing down on each of the letters as he did so and reading out the name of the energy company as he went,” the report read.
The governor leaned in, close to her cheek, and said, “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,” investigators found. Then he brushed his hand “in the area between her shoulder and breasts.”