Andrew Cuomo did not act alone
The governor’s right hand.
Photo: NATHANIEL BROOKS / NATHANIEL BROOKS / The New York Ti
Surviving in Andrew Cuomo’s orbit has always required more than skill. Political vision, ambition and turmoil would not get you far. Hungry young staff are disposable, as are those who come from good schools and respond to emails in a timely manner.
To be successful in Cuomoland, you have to be loyal first and foremost. To the man, the brand, the power that emanated from the capital and intimidated lawmakers, county leaders and mayors. As the flesh of the 168-page Attorney General’s damning report into Cuomo’s sexual harassment made its way into politics and beyond on Tuesday, it became clear that a number of assistants had been, as has been reported, Long suspected, remarkable catalysts of Cuomo’s predatory behavior.
There was Alphonso David, Cuomo’s former lawyer, passing on confidential personal files of Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who had accused Cuomo of forcibly kissing her. There was Cuomo’s senior adviser and pugnacious press secretary Richard Azzopardi, who then sent them to reporters in a cheeky attempt to smear Boylan in the press. There too was the former subject of a brilliant Harper’s Bazaar cover, Melissa DeRosa, in lots of email communications, charting a course for her beleaguered boss. Spin is “a full-throated emotional apology,” DeRosa wrote on March 3, the day Cuomo delivered a video where he appeared to be holding back tears, apologizing for making his accusers uncomfortable.
At every turn, DeRosa and his colleagues allowed Cuomo’s predation. “During our investigation, most of the witnesses who were not part of the Governor’s inner circle provided a consistent account of the executive chamber’s office culture, describing it as ‘toxic’ and full of bully-like behavior. , where unwavering loyalty to the governor and his senior staff was highly valued, ”the report states. “Several state employees, including those outside the Executive Chamber, told us they believed their careers in the New York State government would be over if they had to cross paths with the Governor or senior management, including reporting misconduct. “
There would be no Cuomo – to this degree, at least – without his entourage. Larry Schwartz, a useful political agent in Cuomo as he will perpetually follow an order, oversaw vaccine distribution in the state, although he had no background in science, medicine, or public health. Schwartz, in his capacity as vaccine czar, lobbied at least two county leaders for their loyalty to Cuomo as the governor initially came under scrutiny for allegedly sexually harassing a wide range of current and former staff, as well as other women. Schwartz’s behavior was disturbing, of course, but also expected – what would a man with no public health expertise do but talk politics and utter threats? How could it be otherwise?
With few exceptions, those closest to Cuomo were imbued with his darkest impulses, prone to howling fits that bothered lawmakers, reporters, and anyone in close contact with his government. Cuomo’s press officers during the governor’s heyday regularly scolded reporters. Lower level helpers endured a similar degree of anger. Cuomo was a fickle king and those who wanted to stay at court had to forgo decorum and empathy.
DeRosa once told state senator Alessandra Biaggi that she was a “bad person” and “full of shit.” Before DeRosa took on the role of Cuomo’s executor, there was Joe Percoco, once considered by Cuomo to be someone who looked like a brother. Percoco would end up in jail, supporting a blatant corruption plan by the Cuomo government. Prosecutors could never implicate Cuomo himself.
Working for Cuomo while attempting independent thinking was, in the long run, not really possible. The most egregious example was Andy Byford, a well-regarded transportation expert who was recruited to save New York’s failed subway system. Byford found success by coming up with a far-reaching plan to overhaul an 80-year-old signal network. But he was popular with the press and too willing to assert his position with Cuomo, who constantly interfered with his work. Byford’s position became untenable and he resigned shortly before the pandemic to return to his native England.
For New Yorkers, it was the ultimate drama: loyalty always exceeded skill. State government has never been particularly well run. The Cuomo-controlled MTA wasted huge sums of money. Quid pro quo corruption patterns like the one Percoco oversaw have tainted economic development initiatives. Democracy itself faltered, as the patronage-dominated Elections Council failed election after election, Cuomo shrugging his shoulders.
In the days and months to come, as Cuomo faces a legislature that has likely rallied the voices to impeach him, beware of sidekicks and sycophants demanding pardon. David, Cuomo’s ex-lawyer, is already trying a makeover, asks for the resignation of his former boss. The irony is dizzying: imagine, for a moment, a dismayed Rudy Giuliani demanding that Donald Trump no longer seek an elective mandate.
DeRosa, Azzopardi and the others have yet to take such steps. Their allegiance to Cuomo runs deep and they will find it difficult to flee. But all will seek, at some point, a post-Cuomo future and they will try to justify to themselves and others why they have been there for so long, supporting a governor like Cuomo. Some may try to rebrand or claim, against all evidence, that they have gone against their leader’s worst instincts. They will chase away the generous sinecures of the private sector; given the realities of our unseemly political world, they are likely to find them. What they should never receive, however, is the mercy and understanding they never bestowed on others. Cuomo will step down in disgrace. They deserve his fate.