Patterico's Pontifications

8/10/2021

Facing Allegations of Sexual Harassment, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Resigns

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:22 am



[guest post by Dana]

He made the announcement just moments ago:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he was resigning after a withering report from the state’s attorney general alleged he’d sexually harassed multiple women leading to calls from top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, that he step down.

“And I think that given the circumstances the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government, and therefore that is what I’ll do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing, is doing the right thing for you,” Cuomo said.

He announced he’ll leave office in 14 days while continuing to insist that he did nothing wrong.

It was indeed a damning report. And of course, he is insisting that he did nothing wrong:

Fighting for his political survival, Cuomo authorized James to investigate the harassment claims and predicted the probe would exonerate him — but it wound up substantiating all the claims against him in a blistering 165-page report.

In one case, he allegedly groped an executive assistant under her shirt, and in another, he fondled a state trooper, the report alleged. The governor “sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” the report alleged.

Shortly after the report’s release, Cuomo maintained “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” and vowed to focus on his job.

Shorter Cuomo: Despite these false allegations, I will nobly sacrifice myself for you, New York.

–Dana

[UPDATE by JVW] – It’s only fair that we take a moment to recall all of the aging, befuddled celebrities who fawned over Andy the Asshole just one year ago:

8/3/2021

New York Attorney General’s Report: Andrew Cuomo Harassed At Least Eleven Women

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:47 pm



[guest post by JVW]

From National Review Online:

New York governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, among them current and former state employees, in violation of federal and state law, state attorney general Letitia James announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

The announcement represents the conclusions of a months-long probe by the attorney general’s office into sexual harassment allegations made against the governor. Several women have alleged that the governor inappropriately touched them, although Cuomo has denied wrongdoing.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James told reporters. Cuomo and the Executive Chamber cultivated a “toxic” workplace that allowed “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

James added that the probe “is civil in nature and does not have criminal consequences.” However, Anne Clark, one of the lead investigators for the probe, said prosecutors may look at the evidence contained in the report and determine whether to press charges.

“All the information is fully documented in the report, and any prosecutors or police departments can look at the evidence and determine if they want to take further action,” Clark said.

The report detailed allegations against Gov. Cuomo by eleven different women. They largely fall along the lines of obnoxious teenage boy garbage such as using a hug as a pretext to cop a quick feel of a woman’s breast or rear end, or forcing kisses on unwilling victims, much of which we have already discussed at this blog.

I had really began to despair that Governor Sonny was going to get away with this behavior, thanks to a notoriously cynical and corrupt political scene in New York and thanks to a lazy and self-satisfied media (with the exception of the New York Post, who has continued to hold Sonny’s feet to the fire) which can’t be bothered when sexual harassment charges are lodged against an otherwise mostly progressive Democrat. But Attorney General James has political ambitions too, and denying Andrew Cuomo a fourth term is the best way to position herself for a future run at the chief executive’s office.

Now it just remains to be seen what the fallout is. I’ve predicted all along that this ends not with the disgraced governor resigning from office, but with an announcement that he will indeed retire when his term is up at the end of next year. But key Democrats, including the President of the United States, are already on record has having opined that Gov. Cuomo should step down if the reports suggests he sexually harassed women, the legislature has opened up an impeachment inquiry regarding his behavior, and Congressional Democrats from the Empire State have begun the process of throwing their embattled governor under the bus. While I am sure Democrats will eventually find a technicality by which to conveniently backtrack on their “believe all women” stance, someone like Joe Biden whose Administration is seeking to narrow the due process rights of college men accused of sex harassment should theoretically have a difficult time explaining why a powerful, well-placed adult like Andrew Cuomo should be given any benefit of the doubt here. Though we should never underestimate the capacity of Democrats and their media guardians to engage in the rankest form of hypocrisy where party interests are in play, there is certainly going to be some reckoning up in Albany over the next few weeks.

– JVW

3/1/2021

The Drip, Drip, Drip, on Andrew Cuomo’s Political Future

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:59 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Emmy-award winning governor Andrew Cuomo of New York seems to be dying a death of one thousand cuts (oh, there I go again mixing up metaphors from what I used in the title) as more allegations of sexual harassment and bullying begin to emerge. Five days ago, former Cuomo aide Lindsay Boylan published a Medium post adding details to a series of Tweets that she first Tweeted out in December, directly accusing the governor of objectifying her, inappropriately placing his hands on her, and making crude suggestions and innuendo, including one that he probably learned from his former boss. Ms. Boylan relates the story of being summoned alone into the governor’s office one evening:

I was escorted into the Governor’s office, past the desks of administrative assistants and into a room with a large table and historical artifacts. The door closed behind me. It was my first time in his Albany office. The Governor entered the room from another door. We were alone.

As he showed me around, I tried to maintain my distance. He paused at one point and smirked as he showed off a cigar box. He told me that President Clinton had given it to him while he served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The two-decade old reference to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not lost on me.

Class act that guy is. According to Ms. Boylan, this behavior culminated in the governor giving her an unwanted kiss on the lips one day in 2018. Ms. Boylan would resign from her post that September. After she Tweeted about his behavior in December, Ms. Boylan says that two other female former Cuomo staffers contacted her to relate similar experiences.

And perhaps one of them was Charlotte Bennett, who last week accused the governor of prying into her romantic life, informing her that he was open to the idea of dating women in their 20s (Ms. Bennett is 25, the same age as one of the governor’s daughters; Gov. Cuomo is 63), and generally leaving her with the impression that he longed for a bit of the ol’ hey-hey with her. Though the governor apparently at no point made physical contact with Ms. Bennett (all of this took place this past spring, as coronavirus was ravaging the Empire State), he did speak to her about his loneliness since his last relationship ended in 2019 and expressed the desire to be able to hug somebody, with Ms. Bennett understanding that she was expected to volunteer for the role (instead, she parried his clumsy advance). He also, according to Ms. Bennett, fixated upon the fact that she was a past sexual assault victim in a way which made her uncomfortable.

And just today came yet another accusation from an attractive young woman, though this time it is a member of the media rather than an ex-staffer, this time it is an allegation lodged against the Cuomo team as a whole rather than against the governor personally, and this time it pertains to bullying — an practice in which the governor and his administration have a long and ignoble history — rather than sexual harassment. Here is her story via Twitter:

Sure, it’s not nearly as aggravating as the behavior to which Ms. Boylan and Ms. Bennett were subjected, but it does give us a pretty decent insight into the mindset that permeates the Cuomo Administration, and this, in my opinion, makes it far easier to view the allegations from the other two women as being highly probable.

The governor seems to understand that this problem isn’t going away (and we have thus far made no mention of the avalanche of bad publicity that is finally catching up with his wrongheaded and dishonest handing of the COVID situation this past spring), and is taking tentative steps to repair his image. While continuing to deny inappropriate physical contact with his two accusers, he does concede that his remarks are sometimes “insensitive and too personal” and that they are easily misconstrued “in ways I never intended.” He officially apologized to the women, while still insisting that his remarks have been “misinterpreted.”

But it may be too late. Republicans understandably mostly loathe the governor and have no real interest in throwing him a lifeline, and there are a number of ambitious Democrats in New York who would love to see Andrew Cuomo take early retirement so that the corner office in Albany is in play two years from how. State Attorney General Letitia James, who is already needling the governor on the COVID situation, has opened an investigation into the women’s allegations. Mayor Bill de Blasio, happy that there is at last another New York politician (and one with whom he has had a frosty relationship) who is the focus of New Yorkers’ ire, is gleefully twisting the knife. Even a nominal ally like Hillary Clinton is beginning to distance herself from the guy, though it could be that Mrs./Sen./Sec. Clinton took special umbrage over the governor’s alleged reference to her husband, cigars, and staffers. Keeping in character, Kirsten Gillibrand tried to dodge the issue last Thursday by claiming that she hadn’t yet had a chance to read Ms. Boylan’s essay, but earlier today joined with her Senate colleague Chuck Schumer (now, amazingly, the least detestable Democrat politician in New York) in calling for “an impartial investigation” (politician-speak for “it’s OK if you find him guilty”).

Since I am so good at making completely wrong predictions, here’s one: This all ends not with Cuomo resigning from office, but with an announcement that he won’t be running for reelection in 2022 and that he wants to spend his last two years in office leading New York back from the wreckage wrought by the pandemic. In return, Attorney General James’s investigation will determine that the governor is guilty of being too jocular and insensitive with staff, but she will make no determination as to whether Ms. Boyland’s allegation of physical contact is credible. The former governor can then join his brother for a nightly three-hour news/opinion/comedy/dance/debate program on CNN called “Sonny and Fredo: Real New Yorkers.”

Andrew Cuomo, like Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and others, remind us the folly of investing too much faith in any particular politician to always conduct him or herself with discretion and dignity. I won’t be sorry to see him go, but also won’t be surprised if what ends up replacing him is in so many ways worse.

UPDATE – From nk comes this report in the New York Times about Cuomo behaving boorishly to a guest at a wedding the governor attended. It includes a picture which partially corroborates the wedding guest’s allegations that Cuomo touched her bare back, placed both hands on her cheeks, and asked her for a kiss.

– JVW

8/24/2021

Completing His Humiliation, Cuomo to Have Emmy Rescinded

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:38 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving asshole:

Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was stripped of his Emmy Award on Tuesday due to sexual harassment allegations substantiated in the state attorney general’s probe that delivered the death knell to his gubernatorial reign.

“The International Academy announced today that in light of the New York Attorney General’s report, and Andrew Cuomo subsequent resignation as governor, it is rescinding his special 2020 international Emmy Award,” reads a statement from the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“His name and any reference to his receiving the award will be eliminated from International Academy material going forward.”

Cuomo was bestowed the award in November 2020 for his COVID-19 pandemic press briefings.The scandal-scarred governor, who formally resigned Monday, was formerly recognized for his “effective use of television during the pandemic,” the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced.

You don’t have to be a Donald Trump fan to realize that Cuomo’s Emmy was meant to be a eff-you finger from the entertainment industry to the Trump Administration, so it’s high comedy indeed to watch them now behave in an utterly Pecksniffian manner. But given how fantastically awful Sonny Cuomo’s behavior was over the years, given how the Democrat establishment was happy to downplay his abusive behavior towards everyone in his orbit from staff to legislators to media, given the rampant corruption that occurred under his administration both in official policy and in Sonny’s own financial dealings, I welcome that one brief moment where the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences pretends to grow a conscience and endeavors to right a wrong.

And, naturally, the former governor left office in the most self-pitying and obnoxious way possible. Kyle Smith at NRO sums up the disgraced governor’s farewell pretty well:

[. . .] Even to dedicated Cuomotextuals, the [speech] was a masterpiece of effrontery, arrogance, and Escher-style self-negating twists. The obfuscation! The blame-shifting! The conspiracy-theorizing! The denial! The sheer, sordid cheek of the thing! It was a positively Frankenian farewell.

Mr. Smith hearkens back two-plus decades ago to Cuomo’s former boss, Bill Clinton, in comparing Handsy Andy’s dismissal of the allegations against him with Bubba’s shameful rationalizations for why the Monica Lewinsky scandal was overblown. Quoth Cuomo:

There will be another time to talk about the truth and ethics of the recent situation involving me, but let me say now that, when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system — and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society.

Of course, as Kyle Smith points out, “the facts” have never been on Sonny’s side. Not only did eleven women raise allegations against him, not only did several of them report this abhorrent behavior to family and friends immediately after it occurred, not only did more than one damming picture appear to show Sonny engaging in the alleged behavior, but the New York Attorney General, a nominal ideological ally if also a political rival, investigated the matter and determined the allegations had merit. Yet to Asshole Andy, this is all some big cultural misunderstanding and no doubt will at some point morph into an outlandish claim that the state with the largest total number and fourth-highest percentage of Italian-American residents is somehow biased against a son of Italy.

The body politic won’t miss a depraved character like Andrew Cuomo, though this entire affair isn’t going to amount to much unless the Empire State takes a long and difficult look at their political culture and resolves to address the huge influence that sleazy political machines wield. Both major parties have seen their leadership wind up in prison for various levels of malfeasance, so verily there aren’t too many — if any at all — virgins in the Albany brothel. But anyone who professes to believe in the general beneficence of government — and I’m looking at you as a prime example, New York Times editorial board — has to pay more attention to the cast of characters it is willing to support in order to achieve their ideological objectives, and perhaps wonder if it is truly worth suffering the Andrew Cuomos of the political sewer merely to promote abortion, gun control, and same-sex marriage.

– JVW

5/13/2021

Gov. Cuomo And His Special Definition of Harassment

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:53 am



[guest post by Dana]

Getting testy:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a tense exchange with reporters on Thursday, attempting to offer his own definition of sexual harassment while denying all allegations against him.

“Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable,” the scandal-ridden governor said.

When asked about how he squares his initial apology with state law stating that intent is irrelevant in workplace harassment, Cuomo brought a woman reporter into a hypothetical scenario.

“You can leave this press conference today and say, ‘Oh, the governor harassed me,'” Cuomo said.

“You can say that,” he continued. “I would say, ‘I never said anything I believed was inappropriate. I never meant to make you feel that way.’ You may hear it that way. You may interpret it that way, and I respect that. And I apologize to you, if I said something you think is offensive.”

Cuomo was then asked if he would acknowledge that none of those comments on intent have any bearing on the law.

“Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable,” he replied. “That is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That is you feeling uncomfortable.”

Ten women have now come forward and accused Gov. Cuomo of sexual harassment or misconduct.

–Dana

3/29/2021

One More Accuser: Woman Alleges Gov. Cuomo Forcibly Kissed Her In Her Home

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:02 pm



[guest post by Dana]

I think we’ve hit double-digits now. Another Cuomo accuser alleges that the governor kissed her without consent in 2017 while touring her flood-damaged home:

“The whole thing was so strange and inappropriate and still makes me nervous and afraid because of his power and position,” said Sherry Vill, a 55-year-old married mother of three, as she spoke out in an afternoon briefing alongside lawyer Gloria Allred. “I am still afraid of him, but I am no longer willing to remain silent.”

Vill, whose house was among those damaged, invited Cuomo into her home and expressed dismay at its condition.

“That’s when the governor looked at me, approached me, took my hand and pulled me to him,” Vill said. “He leaned down over me and kissed my cheek. I was holding my small dog in my arms and I thought he was going to pet my dog. But instead he went to squeeze between the dog and mine and kiss me on the other cheek in what I felt was a highly sexual manner.”

According to Vill, Gov. Cuomo brushed off the accusations by saying it’s just what Italians do:

“He said, ‘That’s what Italians do, kiss both cheeks,’” recalled Vill.

“I felt shocked and didn’t understand what had just happened,” said Vill. “But I knew I felt embarrassed and weird about his kissing me. I am Italian, and in my family, family members kiss. Strangers do not kiss, especially upon meeting someone for the first time.”

Vill, who is being represented by Gloria Allred, also said that Cuomo told her she was “beautiful,” but didn’t stop there:

Cuomo again allegedly grabbed Vill’s face and kissed her on the cheek outside the home — in front of Vill’s son, who was recording the governor’s visit and caught an image of the contact, displayed at the virtual briefing.

“I felt like I was being manhandled, especially because he was holding my face and he was kissing my cheek again,” said Vill. “The way he looked at me and his body language made me very uncomfortable. I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors.”

Here is the photo Vill’s son captured of the creepy and completely inappropriate encounter:
gov. cuomo

According to reports, Allred and Vill have not reached out to Cuomo’s office about the allegations. Per Allred, they will be getting in touch with the attorney general’s office which is conducting an investigation into claims made against the governor. A lawsuit has not yet been filed.

Despite calls to resign by New York’s delegation to the House of Representatives, Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, and Mayor Blasio, Cuomo is staying put – at least for now. That could very well have to do with the fact that he is still receiving enough support from state Democrats:

…nearly half of voters (49 percent) in New York say that he should not resign while 43 percent say he should resign, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pea-ack) University poll of registered voters in New York State. The poll was conducted from March 16th – 17th. In a March 4th survey, voters said 55 – 40 percent he should not resign.

Today, Democrats say 67 – 23 percent he should not resign, 49 percent of independents say Cuomo should not resign with 42 percent saying he should resign, and Republicans say 72 – 26 percent he should resign.

In a separate question, voters were asked about the positions elected officials have taken about whether or not Governor Cuomo should step down. Just over 1 in 5 voters (22 percent) say they agree more with elected officials calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediately. About three-quarters of voters (74 percent) say they agree more with elected officials saying they will wait until the New York Attorney General’s independent investigation is completed before they decide whether or not to call for Governor Cuomo to resign.

If you’re keeping track, there are now three ongoing investigations into the Cuomo administration.

–Dana

3/25/2021

The Cuomos, Coronavirus, and CNN

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:45 am



[guest post by JVW]

It’s an all-too-believable yet also unbelievable story of privilege:

High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said.

The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people.

Of course Team Cuomo disagrees, and wants to try and assure us that everyone who was exposed to the virus received the same red carpet treatment:

Officials in the Cuomo administration said the testing in those early days of the pandemic in March 2020 was not preferential, and they noted public nurses were being driven to private residences in New Rochelle — the site of the state’s first outbreak — to test people who were symptomatic or who had been exposed to the virus. During that period, State Police troopers were largely being tasked with driving those samples to the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany, which was initially the primary testing spot for coronavirus.

“It’s being a little bit distorted with like a devious intent. … We made sure to test people they believed were exposed,” an official in Cuomo’s office said on background. “All of this was being done in good faith in an effort to trace the virus.”

Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, characterized the allegations of preferential treatment as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”

“In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a heavy emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people testing — including in some instances going to people’s homes, and door-to-door in places like New Rochelle — to take samples from those believed to have been exposed to COVID in order to identify cases and prevent additional ones,” Azzopardi said. “Among those we assisted were members of the general public, including legislators, reporters, state workers and their families who feared they had contracted the virus and had the capability to further spread it.”

Geography note: New Rochelle, where the initial outbreak took place, is not on Long Island, where the Christopher Cuomo family resides. If Mr. Azzopardi is being truthful (and given whom he works for, it’s highly unlikely) about the contact tracing in a variety of communities, then we would expect that all of Chris Cuomo’s colleagues at CNN also had doctors and nurses appearing on their doorsteps with testing kits in hand, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that didn’t actually happen. The Albany paper quotes a source who disagrees with Mr. Azzopardi’s exculpatory assessment:

Still, one of the people familiar with the matter said that the people with close ties to the governor, including his relatives, would have their samples moved to the front of the line at Wadsworth and be given priority. They were referred to as “critical samples.”

Another person familiar with the matter said the “sampling missions” had unsettled some of the high-level health department officials tasked with collecting the samples at private residences — including Adams, who had previously worked in the health department’s New York City regional office for the Healthcare Epidemiology & Infection Control Program.

“To be doing sort of direct clinical work was a complete time-suck away from their other duties,” the person said. “It was like wartime.”

I’m not a big fan of anonymous officials making strong claims of administration wrongdoing, but given what we know about the bullying mafia-like (yeah, I went there) atmosphere in the Cuomo Administration I can, in this instance, completely understand it.

And the tiresome gaggle of twits over at CNN have really stepped in it with a lame defense of Team Cuomo, who brightened the network’s spring COVID coverage with their delightful brotherly antics which firmly established Andrew Cuomo as the best Empire State Governor since at least George Clinton and a hero to Americans who wanted thoughtful and articulate leadership, even if that meant killing thousands of elderly nursing home residents at the behest of your largest donors. The network naturally rode to the defense of the Cuomo crime syndicate:

CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said Wednesday in response to the report: “We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.”

Left unanswered are some key questions:

(1) Was Fredo really someone who had exhibited symptoms of the virus and thus deserved testing? It seems that his bout with COVID-19 was pretty mild (despite his claims to the contrary), as evidenced by his willingness to break quarantine even as he pretended to be in a great deal of distress.

(2) What was the rationale for testing any of the Cuomo Family beyond the governor, assuming that none of them were experiencing symptoms? Was the Cuomo sister not tested until after her brother received his positive test, and if so, was that because she had been in recent contact with him? Same applies to the Cuomo matriarch and the other family members: with whom exactly had they been in contact in order to justify the test, and how many additional times were they tested after their initial negative result? (Naturally, medical privacy laws give them an excuse for keeping that information private.)

(3) Does CNN really think that it is hunky-dory for their employee and his family to receive (allegedly multiple) COVID-19 tests at a time when they were in short supply in New York State and people who were experiencing obvious symptoms of the virus were having trouble getting tested? This goes a long way of explaining why their network has become so unwatchable and their hosts so tiresome and stale.

As we have chronicled here recently, the sharks are swimming around Governor Andrew Cuomo, even if it remains to be seen if they will get up the nerve to take a bite. But I think it’s high time we are done with that awful family of creeps and thugs once and for all.

– JVW

3/18/2021

Gov. Cuomo’s Office Opens Investigation Into Groping Allegations Against…The Governor

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:18 am



[guest post by Dana]

But first, how is this not damning:

Days after Lindsey Boylan became the first woman to accuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of Twitter posts in December, people tied to the governor started circulating an open letter that they hoped former staff members would sign.

The letter was a full-on attack on Ms. Boylan’s credibility, suggesting that her accusation was premeditated and politically motivated. It disclosed personnel complaints filed against her and attempted to link her to supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

“Weaponizing a claim of sexual harassment for personal political gain or to achieve notoriety cannot be tolerated,” the letter concluded. “False claims demean the veracity of credible claims.”

The initial idea, according to three people with direct knowledge of the events, was to have former Cuomo aides — especially women — sign their names to the letter and circulate it fairly widely.

Multiple drafts were created, and Mr. Cuomo was involved in creating the letter, one of the people said. Current aides to the governor emailed at least one draft to a group of former advisers. From there, it circulated to current and former top aides to the governor.

The report notes that this is a fairly common tactic used in harassment claims:

The use of such tactics in harassment claims is so commonplace that it has its own acronym: DARVO, which stands for “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.”

Along with investigations into the allegations against Cuomo being overseen by the state attorney general and the State Assembly, Cuomo’s office has also opened up its own investigation:

Despite the state attorney general’s ongoing investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, senior aides to the governor said they are also conducting their own “parallel review” of a female aide’s recent account of being groped by Cuomo at the Executive Mansion late last year.

“We have our own inquiries ongoing,” a senior aide to the governor told the Times Union. “We have an obligation to investigate any claim of sexual harassment. And we, after reporting (the female aide’s allegations) to the (attorney general), were directed to continue our own inquiry. … So there are multiple inquiries.”

The attorney for the woman who accused Cuomo of groping her objected to the “shadow investigation” being done by Cuomo’s office:

It’s absurd. Why would you be doing that? It’s not appropriate, and obviously we’re concerned with the ramifications and the effect on witnesses and the quest for the truth.

–Dana

2/9/2021

Cuomo Asks Court to Enjoin Him from Enforcing His Own Executive Order

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:04 pm



[guest post by JVW]

On what else but COVID policy, naturally:

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has asked a federal court to block the state’s own restrictions on capacity at houses of worship in areas with high rates of coronavirus spread.

Cuomo issued an executive order in October ordering houses of worship to accept no more than ten people in so-called coronavirus “red” zones,” while 25 worshippers could be allowed in “orange” zones. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in November that those restrictions were unconstitutional, in a case brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization of Orthodox Jewish groups.

We discussed the Court’s ruling back in November. The Court sent the case back to a lower district court, and yesterday the U.S. District Court for New York’s Eastern District agreed with the governor’s request to strike down his order.

“Defendant [Cuomo] has agreed to an injunction against enforcement of the…capacity limits in red and orange zones,” Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto wrote in the Monday injunction. “Subsequently, Defendant’s counsel has represented in status conferences that before the end of February 2021,” the executive order’s restrictions “will be amended to remove houses of worship.”

Matsumoto’s ruling came after lawyers for the governor asked to cancel a hearing on the case, in a series of filings first reported by The New York Times. Aides to the governor told the Times that the state did not support an injunction against Cuomo’s executive order, but also did not oppose the injunction.

So I know all of the intelligent people on this blog are scratching their heads wondering why Governor Andrew Cuomo, ersatz hero of the pandemic response among Democrats everywhere, didn’t simply modify his executive order to reflect the more generous guardrails suggested by the judiciary. Could it be that the governor is not at all interested in allowing members of his administration to testify as to how pandemic decisions are being made in Albany?

One result of allowing the District Court to block the executive order was to prevent New York State health commissioner Howard Zucker from appearing for testimony at a previously-scheduled hearing in the case. Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at religious-liberty advocacy group Becket, alleged that the decision to drop the case was made to prevent Zucker from testifying in court.

“The Governor is desperately trying to avoid testimony showing that his orders shutting down synagogues and churches weren’t based on public health, but on politics,” Rassbach said in a statement.

Now it could conceivably be that the Cuomo Administration believes that church services are super-spreader events waiting to happen, especially as we gear up for the Passover and Easter seasons, and he wants it to be known that he was forced to accede to the judiciary so that if there is a COVID flare-up which can be traced back to the churches he can deliver the “I told you so” moment while once again casting himself as the all-seeing seer to guide us through these troubled times. But given his dismal track record and his callous politicization of the disease — including suggesting that a coronavirus vaccine developed and approved during the Trump Administration might be unsound and dangerous — I’m inclined to believe this is yet more of the authoritarian and micromanaging governor’s penchant for circling the wagons to control the narrative.

– JVW

11/26/2020

Supreme Court Strikes Down Cuomo’s Limits on Religious Services

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:12 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 ruling, yesterday placed an injunction upon New York State and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ability to enforce the limitations on religious gatherings that they had imposed in response to coronavirus outbreaks over the past several months.

The opinion is located here. As a Cliff’s Notes version, here are some snippets starting with the Per Curiam order of the Court (which was either written by Justice Thomas, Alito, or Barrett; my money is on Alito):

Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue. Almost all of the 26 Diocese churches immediately affected by the Executive Order can seat at least 500 people, about 14 can accommodate at least 700, and 2 can seat over 1,000. Similarly, Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills can seat up to 400. It is hard to believe that admitting more than 10 people to a 1,000–seat church or 400–seat synagogue would create a more serious health risk than the many other activities that the State allows.

[. . .]

Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. Before allowing this to occur, we have a duty to conduct a serious examination of the need for such a drastic measure.

Concurrence from Justice Gorsuch:

As almost everyone on the Court today recognizes, squaring the Governor’s edicts with our traditional First Amendment rules is no easy task. People may gather inside for extended periods in bus stations and airports, in laundromats and banks, in hardware stores and liquor shops. No apparent reason exists why people may not gather, subject to identical restrictions, in churches or synagogues, especially when religious institutions have made plain that they stand ready, able, and willing to follow all the safety precautions required of “essential” businesses and perhaps more besides. The only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as “essential” as what happens in secular spaces. Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.

Justice Kavanaugh, also concurring:

In light of the devastating pandemic, I do not doubt the State’s authority to impose tailored restrictions—even very strict restrictions—on attendance at religious services and secular gatherings alike. But the New York restrictions on houses of worship are not tailored to the circumstances given the First Amendment interests at stake. To reiterate, New York’s restrictions on houses of worship are much more severe than the California and Nevada restrictions at issue in South Bay and Calvary, and much more severe than the restrictions that most other States are imposing on attendance at religious services. And New York’s restrictions discriminate against religion by treating houses of worship significantly worse than some secular businesses.

Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the liberal bloc in voting against the injunction, attempted to strike a fine balance between the sides. While conceding that the governor’s orders “do seem unduly restrictive,” the Chief tried to punt the issue on the basis that New York had since moved the area affecting the plaintiffs into a less-restrictive zone:

It is not necessary, however, for us to rule on that serious and difficult question [of whether the restrictions run afoul of the Constitution] at this time. The Governor might reinstate the restrictions. But he also might not. And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic. If the Governor does reinstate the numerical restrictions the applicants can return to this Court, and we could act quickly on their renewed applications. As things now stand, however, the applicants have not demonstrated their entitlement to “the extraordinary remedy of injunction.”

The Court’s three remaining leftish bloc, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, agreed with the Chief that there is no need to decide upon Constitutional issues unless the plaintiffs were once again placed into the most restrictive zones. They also don’t believe the Constitutional issue is a clear-cut as the majority or the Chief seems to believe, and ought to be determined first by the Court of Appeals before being taken up by the Court. In the dissent, Justice Breyer writes:

We have previously recognized that courts must grant elected officials “broad” discretion when they “undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties.” That is because the “Constitution principally entrusts the safety and the health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the States.” The elected branches of state and national governments can marshal scientific expertise and craft specific policies in response to “changing facts on the ground.” And they can do so more quickly than can courts. That is particularly true of a court, such as this Court, which does not conduct evidentiary hearings. It is true even more so where, as here, the need for action is immediate, the information likely limited, the making of exceptions difficult, and the disease-related circumstances rapidly changing. [The quotes above are from the Court’s earlier decision South Bay United Pentacostal Church v. Newsom, and citations have been omitted.]

It’s notable that Justice Amy Coney Barrett likely provided the decisive vote for the majority, unless we choose to believe that Chief Justice Roberts would have suppressed his desire to defer the decision for another day had Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived (and presumably voted with the left bloc). As we start to swing into Advent and Hanukkah, Christians and Jews not just in New York but nationwide can feel comfortable that the highest Court respects our First Amendment rights against arbitrary and capricious edicts from government.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the blog’s readers and commenters, especially those who suffer through my posts.

– JVW

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