After staunchly refusing to resign his post amid an avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo woke up on Thursday to more accusations.
This time they came from a group of women reporters who covered state politics when Cuomo was in power, either as governor or in other elected positions. Valerie Bauman, now a reporter for Bloomberg Law, told the Daily Beast she was sitting across from Cuomo at a 2007 press conference—he was state attorney general at the time—when she felt him staring at her. “I started blushing and looking around at the people surrounding me, whose own facial expressions indicated, ‘Yes, ma’am, he’s looking at you,’” Bauman told the outlet.
After the presser, Cuomo reportedly “beelined” toward her and gripped her hand while he introduced himself. Bauman, who was 25 at the time, said she heard a reporter nearby say that the then state attorney general seemed “very into her.”
“To be clear: Andrew Cuomo never touched me inappropriately or said anything that I felt I could report to my boss,” Bauman wrote in a statement she posted to Twitter on Thursday. “He did make me uncomfortable, as did a lot of men in Albany.”
Bauman’s story is a familiar one for many other women in the Albany press corps. One woman in the Daily Beast’s report said that the governor had given her a similar up-and-down when she was backstage at the Legislative Correspondents Association Show, a sort of theatrical variety show the press puts on annually for the community. According to the Beast:
The reporter, who asked not to be named because she still covers Cuomo, was portraying a seasoned female lawmaker in a sketch. She says Cuomo came to visit the reporters backstage and approached her to ask who she was playing. Her assigned character was older and larger than she is, and when she told the governor who she was portraying, she said, he gave her a “full-body scan” and laughed out loud.
She doesn’t remember the exact words he used, but the meaning was obvious: that her body looked nothing like the female lawmaker’s she was intended to portray.
And last week, former Politico New York reporter Jessica Bakeman described her unsettling experience attending a 2014 holiday party Cuomo was hosting for the press corps at the executive mansion. “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,” Bakeman wrote for New York magazine.
At the event, Cuomo took her hand, placed his hand on her waist, put his arm around her back, and gripped her tightly so they could take a few photos together, Bakeman said: “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’”
Other women reporters say this kind of misogyny and harassment isn’t specific to Cuomo; rather, it is diffuse throughout state politics, “as pervasive as air,” Laura Nahmias, a former colleague of Bakeman’s, wrote on Twitter in February. A veteran Albany correspondent told the Beast on Thursday that women reporters like her the earlobe of the press corps” for Cuomo. “Just unnecessary; something that he has to deal with but doesn’t necessarily think a lot about.”
When reading these women’s accounts, I’m reminded of how Cynthia Nixon often spoke of Albany’s hyper-masculine, misogynist culture when she primaried Cuomo in 2018. Cuomo, she said, was part of “an old boys’ club of one actual Republican and two wannabe Republicans.” One of these “wannabes” was Jeff Klein, the former leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus, the group of Democratic state lawmakers who caucused with Republicans. Nixon helped vanquish the group—many of them men who were defeated by women candidates—but in many ways the boys’ club is still intact. And so—for now—is its leader.