No, Andrew; Our Italian-American Culture Didn’t Make You Do It.
By Steve Villano
Andrew Cuomo hired me to work in New York State government—in the Administration of his father, Mario M. Cuomo—37 years ago. Now, it’s time for Andrew to leave the service of the State he has long loved, and to which he and his family devoted their lives to for over four decades.
I am both sad and infuriated that he has put himself—and many of us who have admired and supported his ability to get good things done—in this terrible position. I am pained for his mother, the magnificent Matilda Cuomo, his three daughters and his three sisters to be forced to read about the sordid, sexist, sophomoric, and potentially illegal actions of the Cuomo who beat back COVID, and could have been President.
And, I am filled with outrage for the scars Andrew afflicted on the 11 brave women who stepped forward, under oath, to testify to Cuomo’s unwanted touching, his untethered teenaged testosterone with which he tormented them, and their fear of losing their jobs, and harming their public service careers, if they spoke up. Like New York State Attorney General Lettitia James, “I believe these 11 women.”
I watched the New York Attorney General’s full press conference, where her team of highly qualified, non-partisan investigators laid out, in devastating detail, the “Report of Investigation Into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.” Then, I read the full 165-page report myself, and wept while I read in anger what he was charged with doing to these courageous women, and was dumbfounded at his unbridled arrogance, misogyny and abject stupidity. I thought I knew from experience how arrogant and insensitive Andrew could be, but I never took him for being so politically dumb.
I watched and listened carefully to Andrew Cuomo as he aired a pre-taped “commercial” defending his awful, possibly unlawful actions, by splicing in photos and videos of himself hugging and kissing lots of men and women, to normalize his behavior, claiming that he was so affectionate because of his “generational and cultural perspectives” that may be different. He was ignoring the “toxic” harassment-filled workplace culture he created, and blaming it instead on his own Italian-American culture and background. No, Andrew; our loving, humanitarian Italian-American culture didn’t make you do it. You alone did it.
As an Italian-American male nine-years older than Andrew Cuomo, I found his pathetic attempt to pin the blame for his abominable behavior on his loving, affectionate Italian family background particularly enraging. To argue that he couldn’t control his libido because he was Italian, is like saying Italian’s can’t control their family’s association with organized crime, or that Black men cannot control their sexual desire because they are, well… Black men. Despicable. I wrote an entire book (Tightrope: Balancing A Life Between Mario Cuomo and My Brother, Heliotrope Books, NY,) to offer eyewitness testimony against such cultural slurs.
Still, as Cuomo requested, I read the 26-page “Statement of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Concerning the Sexual Harassment Allegations Made Against Him,” by his attorney and former Federal Prosecutor, Rita M. Glavin, which was, in fact, almost as juvenile and embarrassing as legal filings from the Trump team.
Contrary to what Cuomo said in his pre-recorded statement, his lawyer’s “brief” did NOT counter every accusation, being completely silent on perhaps the most serious allegation made against him, under oath, by a female State Trooper. The Trooper—identified as Trooper # 1, who was transferred to Cuomo’s personal security unit despite not having the 3-year service qualifications– detailed how Cuomo touched her spine from her neck to the middle of her back, how he placed his hand on her stomach and moved it from her belly-button to her gun-toting hip, and how he invited her to go up to the second floor of the Executive Mansion in Albany, which contained the Governor’s bedroom. Not one single word addressed the Trooper’s under-oath statements in Cuomo’s legal rebuttal. Not one single word.
Andrew M. Cuomo can save his family, his beloved State, and Democrats across the nation much agita and further embarassment, by resigning immediately. NYS Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, a Brooklyn Democrat, stated that Cuomo has “lost the confidence of the Democratic Majority in the Assembly (106 out of 150 seats), and “can no longer remain in office.”
Yet, if Cuomo’s past political behavior is prologue, he’ll follow the playbook of his self-professed political hero, Bill Clinton—something I found incomprehensible since he had Mario Cuomo as his father: a far, far better role model & human being.
Clinton, guilty of an abuse of power, sexual harassment and lying under oath for which he was impeached, selfishly decided to tough it out, and not resign, preventing his Vice President Al Gore from running for election in 2000 as an incumbent president, which may have changed the course of this nation’s history—or at least the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
If Andrew Cuomo doesn’t resign—whether he runs for re-election or not—he’ll put New York, and national Democrats at a disadvantage in 2022, when the self-inflicted wounds of a Democratic celebrity, could not only cost New York Democrats the Governorship, but House Democrats the majority. It’s no wonder that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden have already called for Cuomo’s resignation.
If he stubbornly refuses, Andrew Cuomo will finally prove something he’s been striving to show for his entire life. He’s not his father.