An eighth woman has come forward to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, rehashing a now-familiar tale of innuendo and dysfunctional workplace politics of Cuomo’s own making.
Alyssa McGrath, a current staffer at the governor’s office, told the New York Times that Cuomo would “ogle her body” and make suggestive comments toward her and a fellow aide who says Cuomo groped her. McGrath is the first current Cuomo staffer to go public with her accusations.
From the New York Times, emphasis ours:
He called her and her co-worker “mingle mamas.” He inquired about her lack of a wedding ring, she said, and the status of her divorce. She recalled him telling her she was beautiful — in Italian — and, as she sat alone with him in his office awaiting dictation, he gazed down her shirt and commented on a necklace hanging there.
Ms. McGrath was called into Mr. Cuomo’s office in the Capitol for a dictation session. She was alone and nervous and wanted to do a good job, she said. She sat across from the governor, pen and paper at the ready.
“I put my head down waiting for him to start speaking, and he didn’t start speaking,” she said. “So I looked up to see what was going on. And he was blatantly looking down my shirt.”
The governor noticed her gaze, she said, and then “made a reference, a subtle reference, saying, ‘What’s on your necklace?’ Which was in my shirt.”
McGrath also said that the unnamed co-worker who accused Cuomo of aggressively groping her in the Governor’s Mansion was directed by Cuomo not to tell McGrath about the alleged incident, “knowing that the two women regularly spoke and texted about their interactions” with him.
The two women were also regularly slotted to work at the governor’s mansion during the weekends. During one such occasion in February 2020, they were working alone with Cuomo when their planned vacation to Florida came up. Cuomo allegedly asked a recently separated McGrath and the co-worker, who was married, if they anticipated “mingling” with men during their trip, and called them the “mingle mamas” for the rest of the weekend.
Weird, but not as weird as an alleged incident from two months prior:
...on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Cuomo asked the co-worker to pose for a photograph with him and send it to Ms. McGrath, she said. The photo, which was reviewed by The Times, shows the governor sitting in a chair at the Executive Mansion with the aide, her face next to his, nearly touching.
The aide’s wedding ring is visible on her hand, her arm draped over the governor’s shoulder. Mr. Cuomo, beaming, is sitting in a gray sweater and a T-shirt.
Ms. McGrath, whose accounts were supported by contemporaneous texts, emails, social media posts, said she did not understand why the governor had wanted her to see the photo, but she believed it may have been “to make me jealous.”
She said that it was common knowledge around the office that Mr. Cuomo would play favorites among female staffers.“We were told from the beginning that was a typical move of his,” she said. “Who was the girl of the week? Who was the girl of the month?”
Cuomo’s propensity for workplace drama is well documented; former and current aides allege that, for decades, Cuomo has antagonized those working under him, calling men “pussies” and interrogating women about their sex lives and finding excuses to touch them. Lindsay Boylan, the first woman to come forward with accusations about Cuomo, wrote a blog post last month emphasizing this very dynamic: “[He] has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”
But it sometimes took a while for his staffers to realize that Cuomo’s behavior wasn’t just friendly.
From the New York Times:
Over the last three years, Ms. McGrath said, the governor had seemingly fostered an unusual work triangle with her and her friend, the co-worker he allegedly groped, blending a professional relationship with unwanted attention. There was paternalistic patter, but also a commandeering, sometimes invasive physicality.
“He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you’re his friend,” Ms. McGrath said. “But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation, in your head going, ‘I can’t believe I just had that interaction with the governor of New York.’”
Cuomo continues to deny the allegations lobbed against him, insisting that any interaction between him and his accusers was perfectly friendly. His lawyer, Rita Glavin, is eager to push the narrative that Cuomo’s accusers are simply overreacting and aren’t used to “old-fashioned” signs of affection:
On Friday, Rita Glavin, a lawyer for Mr. Cuomo, responded to Ms. McGrath’s allegations by saying that “the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like ‘ciao bella.’”
Ms. Glavin added: “None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone.”
It’s 2021. Everything Cuomo has been accused of has been a violation of office sexual harassment policies since the ’80s.
How long before she accuses his attackers of anti-Italian discrimination.