Cuomo harassment charges leave Democrats in a fix

New York Governor is facing sexual harassment allegations

Updated - March 02, 2021 10:12 pm IST

Published - March 02, 2021 10:11 pm IST - NEW YORK

Democrats across the country celebrated New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as the face of governing competence as President Donald Trump fumbled his administration’s response to the exploding pandemic last year.

Now, the Democratic Governor is struggling through a sexual harassment scandal that’s testing the limits of his party’s support as Democrats grapple with one of the first political headaches of the post-Trump era.

So far, few Democrats have come to Mr. Cuomo’s rescue. But they haven’t explicitly condemned him, either.

Both of New York’s Democratic U.S. Senators have publicly embraced the State Attorney General’s nascent investigation into Mr. Cuomo’s behaviour. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday described the allegations as “deeply troubling and deeply concerning.”

And on Monday, President Joe Biden, a longtime ally of Mr. Cuomo, declined to stand behind the embattled Governor.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the President supports the state Attorney General’s probe. She noted that Mr. Biden requires people to be treated with civility and respect in his administration.

“The President’s view has been consistent and clear,” Ms. Psaki said when asked about Mr. Cuomo. “Every woman coming forward should be treated with dignity and respect.”

While Democrats across the country are not rallying behind Mr. Cuomo, few are calling for him to step down. For now, Rep. Kathleen Rice is the only Democrat from New York’s congressional delegation to explicitly call for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation.

That’s in contrast to the treatment of former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who ultimately bowed to pressure from within his own party to step down in 2018 after facing accusations of sexual impropriety from several women.

At that time, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was the first Democrat to call on Mr. Franken to resign. On Sunday, Ms. Gillibrand called the allegations against Mr. Cuomo “serious and deeply concerning” and called on State A-G to conduct “a transparent and thorough investigation with subpoena power.”

GOP’s muted approach

Republicans highlighted the relatively cautious response from some Democrats, although the GOP’s criticism of Mr. Cuomo directly was somewhat muted given the long list of sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cuomo acknowledged for the first time on Sunday that some of his behaviour with women “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the State’s Attorney General.

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