Dear Governor Cuomo,
Oh how you made us all feel better back last May, when we were searching for leadership that would show a disciplined approach to the most frightening of moments in our health history. We were hiding from COVID-19 and trying to protect our lives. Every night at 6 pm we were shouting and saluting the healthcare workers who were putting their own lives at risk to save lives. There you were on the screen each day giving us updates that we could believe with humor, clarity and candor. Your PowerPoints and charts and personal anecdotes were just what the doctor ordered for those of us struggling to understand the enormity of what our country was facing. Is still facing.
We bowed at your feet. We made videos celebrating and thanking you. We trusted you. Trust. I wrote an article praising you and put it out for my entourage to read. I supported you. You were the governor to the nation; you were the one who stood up to the administration’s lies and bullying.
What happened? Was it ego? Was it hubris? Could a third term governor say whatever came into his head? Did you believe the “Love Gov”, a name coined by fans which was reprinted often by the media, gave you free rein to touch and inappropriately approach women? Did you think that your “Love Gov” status made you desirable to young female employees, and it was okay to flirt and entice them….like a dirty old man? Did it give you the right to ask inappropriate sexually charged questions or muse out loud about your belief that it’s appropriate for a 60-something man to date a young woman in her twenties? How could you, the man at the top of New York State, the father of three young women, not realize how intimidating and inappropriate it is to speak to female staffers in that manner?
You are not the first. President Clinton. Trent Franks. Clarence Thomas. Al Franken. Trump. Roy Moore. Elliott Spitzer. Need I go on? In 2018 at least 138 government officials were publicly reported for sexual harassment, assault, misconduct or violence against women since the 2016 election.
What about your power enables you to behave this way, especially post Me Too, and think you are immune to consequences?
You said, “words matter.” Yes, “words do matter.” And your words matter, Governor Cuomo, whether spoken in public at a press conference or in a one-to-one private conversation with a staffer. You said you had no idea how you were being perceived? So when your staffer complained to Personnel and was transferred out of your orbit, you weren’t informed as to why? I am confident that is not the case.
Something is so wrong with our culture of power and men and supporting their need to use it inappropriately with women. My words matter too, Governor. Read them here. Step down. Now. We see you. We hear you. Your position of power is over. You made sure of that.
•Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership, The George Washington University, Center for Excellence in Public Leadership
•Leadership Consultant, Executive Coach, Speaker & Facilitator
•Author, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley)