A seventh target of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s unwanted affections has surfaced.
Writing for New York, Jessica Bakeman claimed that Cuomo used touching and sexual banter to instill fear in the less powerful women around him, and used bullying to scare the men.
Bad as yet another accusation from another woman is, worse still for Cuomo, New York’s two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have demanded his resignation. They joined the majority of New York’s congressional delegation.
But again yesterday, the disgraced governor said he won’t quit. State legislators will have to impeach him.
“Andrew Cuomo’s hands had been on my body — on my arms, my shoulders, the small of my back, my waist — often enough by late 2014 that I didn’t want to go to the holiday party he was hosting for the Albany press corps at the executive mansion,” Bakeman wrote.
At the time, Bakeman was 25 years old, Cuomo 57.
She attended the party anyway because she wanted to become part of the tight-knit fraternity of reporters. She had to leave almost immediately, she wrote, because news broke on her beat, but rightly thought to thank the governor for inviting her, and as well, to offer sympathy for Cuomo’s dying father, Mario.
I walked up to the governor, who was in the middle of a conversation with another reporter, and waited for a moment when I could interject. He took my hand, as if to shake it, then refused to let go. He put his other arm around my back, his hand on my waist, and held me firmly in place while indicating to a photographer he wanted us to pose for a picture.
My job was to analyze and scrutinize him. I didn’t want a photo of him with his hands on my body and a smile on my face. But I made the reflexive assessment that most women and marginalized people know instinctively, the calculation about risk and power and self-preservation. I knew it would be far easier to smile for the brief moment it takes to snap a picture than to challenge one of the most powerful men in the country.
But according to Bakeman, it was no brief moment; Cuomo wouldn’t let her go:
Keeping his grip on me as I practically squirmed to get away from him, the governor turned my body to face a different direction for yet another picture. He never let go of my hand.
Then he turned to me with a mischievous smile on his face, in front of all of my colleagues, and said: “I’m sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady.”
I stood there in stunned silence, shocked and humiliated. But, of course, that was the point.
Yet Bakeman said didn’t think Cuomo wanted sex. Rather, she wrote, “he wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions. He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.”
Bakeman also wrote about a reception where Cuomo was “captivating [reporters] with his account of watching the waters of Superstorm Sandy pour into the World Trade Center memorial site.” Bakeman was the only woman in a group around a cocktail table:
The only opening in the circle was right next to the governor, so I hovered outside the perimeter and listened. Without pausing his anecdote, he took my hand, pulled me into his body and put his arm around my shoulder. He left it there, and kept me pinned next to him, for several minutes as he finished telling his story. I stood there, my cheeks hot, giggling nervously as my male colleagues did the same. We all knew it was wrong, but we did nothing. Sexual harassment is so ubiquitous in Albany we often don’t call it what it is.
Cuomo also mocked and humiliated Bakeman in front her colleagues, she wrote.
New York published a long report yesterday about Cuomo’s “cruelty that disguised chronic mismanagement.”
Other women spoke for that story.
Schumer And Gillibrand
Aside from Bakeman’s account, Cuomo suffered another setback when Schumer and Gillibrand said it was time for Cuomo to move on.
“Confronting and overcoming the Covid crisis requires sure and steady leadership,” they said:
We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct,” they continued. “Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign.
Cuomo refuses. The charges against him are “reckless and dangerous,” he said:
“I did not do what has been alleged, period.”