New allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have emerged in published reports that claim Cuomo demeaned women in his office and sexually harassed them in private.
An article published by The Washington Post on Saturday claims Cuomo tried to lure a former media aide into a hotel room in 2000 during the time he was Housing and Urban Development secretary and married to the former Kerry Kennedy.
Meanwhile, a separate report in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday said a former aide who worked for Cuomo between 2013 and 2015 claimed the governor was inappropriate with her several times in the office.
The two latest reports come after revelations from former aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett who describe being harassed at work and from Anna Ruch, who said she was subject to unwanted attention from Cuomo at a wedding reception.
The Journal report focused upon Ana Liss, now 35, who said what she initially dismissed as flirtations became a daily dose of diminishment making her feel that in Cuomo’s eyes she was “just a skirt.”
She noted that Cuomo once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk.
“It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said.
Liss said that at a May 6, 2014, reception at the Executive Mansion, Cuomo’s official residence, the governor approached her
“He came right over to me and he was like, ‘Hey, Sweetheart!’” she said.
Cuomo hugged her, kissed her on both cheeks, put his arm around her lower back and grabbed her waist. They were then photographed in that position.
The report was not a complete attack on Cuomo. In it, Liss acknowledged she drank heavily at the time and, as The Journal described it, said “her experience working for the governor prompted her to begin mental-health counseling in 2014.”
She has also kept the photo of the two that was taken at the reception and supports his policies.
“I just wish — I wish that he took me seriously,” she said.
The Post reported the case of Karen Hinton, who had worked at HUD but left in 1999 after a confrontation with Cuomo that included a screaming match “with each hurling profanities at the other.”
Hinton told The Post the two argued often but always “made peace.” In 2000, they crossed paths when Hinton worked as a paid consultant to HUD to arrange press coverage for an agency initiative in Los Angeles. The two were staying in the same hotel and Cuomo invited Hinton to his room to “catch up.”
She told The Post she thought Cuomo wanted to patch things up from their argument.
When she arrived, the lights were low.
“I paused for a second,” she said. “Why are the lights so low? He never keeps the lights this low.”
She said the two sat on opposite couches talking, including discussion of Hinton’s marriage, which was struggling at the time. Among the questions Cuomo asked was whether she planned to leave her husband, Hinton told The Post.
Eventually, Hinton said, she got uncomfortable with the conversation and decided to leave.
“I stand up and say, ‘It’s getting late, I need to go,’” she told The Post. Cuomo then embraced her, she said, characterizing the hug as “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate.”
“It’s not just a hug,” she said, adding that she pulled away.
“He pulls me back for another intimate embrace,” she said. “I thought at that moment it could lead to a kiss, it could lead to other things, so I just pull away again, and I leave.”
Peter Ajemian, Cuomo’s director of communications, denied Hinton’s claims in a statement to The Post.
“This did not happen,” the statement said, according to The Post. “Karen Hinton is a known antagonist of the Governor’s who is attempting to take advantage of this moment to score cheap points with made up allegations from 21 years ago. All women have the right to come forward and tell their story — however, it’s also the responsibility of the press to consider self-motivation. This is reckless.”
The Post said it had contacted 150 current and former Cuomo staffers for the article. Most did not respond to the paper. The majority of those it did spoke on condition of anonymity.
“What this is is a systemic, intentional, hostile, toxic workplace environment that . . . perpetuates abusive treatment of people who don’t have power or resources,” it quoted one respondent as saying, describing her as a woman who “worked in his Albany office when she was in her 20s.”
The Post also related an anecdote from what it said was “a high-ranking HUD political appointee” who recalled a 2000 meeting with a Treasury Department official when she had been on the job only a few weeks.
Cuomo hugged her and kissed her cheek upon entering, she said.
“I remember being to this day mortified that he had done this to me in front of this official,” the woman recalled.
“I was so embarrassed, because of course I felt like he was thinking, ‘She was just brought on to be a squeeze,’ ” she said. “It completely diminished me, of course, in the eyes of this person. I have no doubt about that.”
The Post further reported that a “young female staffer who worked for Cuomo in the governor’s office” said Cuomo suggested during a meeting a male staffer should date her, an episode she said was part of a larger workplace culture of diminishment for women.
“I would cry so hard that I would see stars,” she said.
The Post quoted another woman who said she worked for Cuomo “in recent years, when she was in her 20s” who said Cuomo called her “honey” or “sweetheart,” and asked about her boyfriends.
The Post said yet another woman said she was quizzed about her dating life.
“It made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel like it was a proposition,” she said.
“I think it was very normalized, . . . the way people related to one another, the sense that you were expected to look and behave in a certain way, be playful in a certain way,” she added. “It was sort of that hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it culture.”
She told The Post that she started to wear tighter dresses and higher heels in the office, “the clothing worn by others who seemed to have the approval of the governor and senior staff,” as the newspaper described it.
“I felt that I was there, in part, to be eye candy,” she said.
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