Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo consistently stressed the importance of following the facts and truth in order to get out from under the massive health crisis facing New York.
But now, as he faces a litany of crises in his own administration, it is as if Cuomo and his administration have abandoned that sound advice.
On Saturday, a second former aide to Cuomo, Charlotte Bennett, came forward in a New York Times report to claim that the governor had sexually harassed her on the job. That revelation came on the heels of detailed claims which former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan made public earlier in the week.
Immediately after the Times story went live, Cuomo announced he would acquiesce to a “full and thorough” review of the accusations against him. His office then announced the appointment of Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, to take up this review — which, Cuomo stressed, would have the full cooperation of his administration.
But seemingly no one outside Cuomo’s administration bought it. No one accused of wrongdoing can be trusted to absolve themselves. They also quickly pointed to Jones’ connection to a close Cuomo associate, former Secretary to the Governor Steven Cohen, as a sticking point undermining the credibility of her review.
So the administration did an about-face on Sunday, albeit reluctantly.
First, they called upon Attorney General Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, to jointly appoint a special counsel to investigate the sexual harassment claims made against Cuomo and issue a report.
Only after James publicly protested and insisted she had the authority and independence to conduct the investigation did Cuomo finally change his mind, and officially refer the case to her office late on Sunday afternoon.
James is the perfect person to handle the investigation. In her January report on the Health Department undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, she demonstrated her complete independence from the Cuomo administration.
Frankly, it was insulting that Cuomo dragged his feet on Sunday before finally agreeing to send the referral.
Now that the case is in James’ hands, Cuomo must fulfill his promise not to get in the way. He must now let James follow the facts and truth wherever it leads her — and then abide by whatever course of action she recommends.