On the morning of December 13, 2020, Lindsey Boylan sat within the passenger seat of her household’s automobile, together with her husband on the wheel and her six-year-old daughter within the again. She started typing a sequence of tweets on her cellphone. Boylan, a former particular adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, had felt more and more troubled as press studies talked about Cuomo as a possible Attorney General within the Biden Administration. For greater than a 12 months, she had been elevating allegations on Twitter that Cuomo presided over a hostile and poisonous office, initially drawing little consideration. Every week earlier than, Boylan had tweeted once more, and one other former Cuomo worker had reached out to her privately, to share a narrative of being sexually harassed by the Governor. “I felt really responsible for what happened to this woman, because I didn’t do something about it,” Boylan informed me, in her first detailed interview about her allegations. She noticed the tales about Cuomo’s political prospects as a trigger for urgency.
In the automobile, she started tweeting allegations that Cuomo had sexually harassed her, too. “@NYGovCuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched,” she wrote. She referenced harassment about her seems and described an unpredictable and intimidating office expertise. Her husband turned conscious of the tweets solely because the response started to construct on-line. “I felt like I was just exploded,” Boylan recalled. “And he felt like he was having a heart attack.”
As Boylan’s disclosures started to attract discover on social media, a bunch of present and former Cuomo staffers who served as his casual crisis-communications mind belief moved to squash them “in real time,” in line with one particular person with direct data of the hassle. Members of that group included Melissa DeRosa, a senior aide; Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s spokesperson; and Steven M. Cohen, a former secretary to the Governor. They circulated Boylan’s tweets and held a sequence of pressing calls. The group had simply emerged from a frantic effort to reply to allegations that Cuomo’s workplace had intentionally undercounted COVID-related deaths in New York nursing houses. They had been “putting that to bed, and then she pipes up. And then it’s sort of a big scramble,” the particular person with direct data of the hassle informed me. “It was, like, what the hell do we do about this?” Cuomo’s advisers arrived at a plan to leak Boylan’s personnel records, which included allegations that Boylan had bullied colleagues, some of them girls of shade. “The decision was made collectively,” the particular person with direct data of the hassle mentioned. “That these are facts, the reporters should see them.”
An middleman who says that he was not on the calls, Rich Bamberger, a former communications director for Cuomo who now works for the public-relations agency Kivvit, known as a number of reporters and suggested them to contact the Governor’s workplace. According to the particular person with data of the conversations, Azzopardi then despatched Boylan’s personnel information to reporters. By day’s finish, a number of of the complaints about Boylan had appeared in tales, by the Associated Press, the New York Post, and the Albany-based Times Union. Boylan recalled being surprised by the articles. “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe,” she mentioned. In the following days, Cuomo aides started contacting individuals who had labored underneath Boylan—which some of the recipients discovered intimidating, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. Cuomo advisers additionally thought-about releasing a letter attacking Boylan’s credibility and status, drafts of which had been first reported by the Times this week. They finally determined towards releasing the letter. “My life was, you know, for a period, destroyed,” Boylan informed me. In an announcement, Beth Garvey, Cuomo’s appearing counsel, mentioned, “With certain limited exceptions, as a general matter, it is within a government entity’s discretion to share redacted employment records, including in instances when members of the media ask for such public information and when it is for the purpose of correcting inaccurate or misleading statements.”
Boylan’s allegations largely pale from public view, till final month, when she posted an in depth account of her expertise on Medium. Boylan informed me, throughout a sequence of prolonged interviews, that she determined to reveal her allegations through on-line posts and initially declined interview requests from journalists as a result of “having someone dissect my trauma is not something I wanted.” She mentioned that the essay took her greater than a month to write down. “I realized I had to own this experience,” she informed me. “It was something I was going to have to talk about eventually.” A sequence of disclosures about Cuomo from different girls, together with a number of allegations of harassment and one of groping, rapidly adopted Boylan’s. “Seeing Lindsey’s story was a huge factor in my decision to come forward,” Charlotte Bennett, a former Cuomo staffer who started publicly discussing her account of sexual harassment by the Governor after Boylan’s Medium submit, informed me. “Coming forward didn’t feel like a choice—it felt like my responsibility to validate Lindsey’s story and signal to others that it was O.K. to come forward.”
The revelations have left Cuomo’s political future in New York, which he has ruled since 2011, in a free fall. He now faces probes by each the New York legal professional normal, Letitia James, and the state meeting, which this week retained a regulation agency for that objective. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and different outstanding Democrats within the state congressional delegation have known as for the Governor to resign. This week, President Biden, a longtime ally of Cuomo’s, mentioned that the Governor ought to step down if the allegations are confirmed by investigators. Cuomo acknowledged some of the harassment allegations, saying, “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” however he maintained that his conduct was unintentional and denied all allegations that he “touched anyone inappropriately.” A spokesperson added, “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
Until December 13th, Cuomo’s grip on energy in New York had been near-absolute, a dominance secured at occasions via his willingness to discredit and intimidate his adversaries. Then Boylan posted her tweets. At first, it appeared as if she would meet the identical destiny as so many others who had challenged the Governor. Now, the Cuomo crew’s response could change into one of its ultimate efforts to frighten an opponent into submission.
Between 2015 and 2018, Boylan served in a number of authorities roles, together with deputy secretary for financial growth. In 2016, she started interacting with Cuomo instantly and had her first encounters with a office tradition underneath him that she mentioned was rife with bullying and retribution. “It was toxic, and particularly for women,” she mentioned. Her description matched these of a number of present and former Cuomo staffers I spoke with, although others informed me that the workplace tradition was intense however not inappropriate. Boylan’s leaked personnel information reportedly comprise allegations that she bullied girls who labored together with her, together with Black girls. Several former colleagues of Boylan’s, none of whom are Black, informed me that they discovered the claims believable and mentioned that that they had additionally discovered Boylan herself to be a hostile presence within the office. “I’ve seen Lindsey do her job well, but I’ve also had experiences where I felt belittled or bullied by her,” a former colleague, who spoke on situation of anonymity, informed me. Others disputed that account or mentioned that Boylan’s conduct was in keeping with a tradition the place volatility was the norm. “It was a hard place to be,” Joel Wertheimer, an legal professional who served as Cuomo’s workers secretary, informed me. “They were nasty and awful.” Wertheimer stop after simply seven months, dispirited by the surroundings. He is now a marketing campaign advisor to Boylan, who’s operating for Manhattan borough president. He added, “I also was not the best version of myself when I was working there.”
Boylan mentioned that Cuomo set the tone, ridiculing a number of of his closest staffers, together with Stephanie Benton, the director of the Governor’s places of work. “I remember, Stephanie had a haircut that he kept making fun of her for all day in front of other people. And she was crying,” Boylan mentioned. (Benton, who continues to be employed in state authorities, mentioned that Boylan’s account was unfaithful and that the Governor had at all times handled her nicely, including, “If I felt otherwise, I would speak for myself.”) Boylan additionally mentioned that Cuomo repeatedly ranted about one other staffer, a younger male aide, being “fat.” The younger male aide, who not works for Cuomo, declined to touch upon his expertise and requested to not be named. Boylan described the office tradition underneath the Governor as aggressive and combative. At a celebration within the pool home on the Governor’s mansion, in Albany, Boylan recalled seeing a dartboard bearing a photograph of Bill de Blasio, Cuomo’s antagonist since he was elected Mayor of New York City, in 2014. “I couldn’t believe how brazen that was,” she mentioned. (A spokesperson for the Governor declined to touch upon the dartboard.)
Boylan had her first interplay with Cuomo after a speech he gave at Madison Square Garden on January 6, 2016, when she was working because the chief of workers at Empire State Development, a state entity that promotes financial progress. She mentioned that he appeared to pay an uncommon quantity of consideration to her. Soon afterward, she mentioned, her boss, Howard Zemsky, informed her that Cuomo had a “crush” on her. (Zemsky didn’t reply to a request for remark.) During the subsequent two years, Boylan mentioned, the Governor repeatedly commented on her look and touched her greater than she felt was vital or skilled. “He would put his hand on my lower back,” Boylan mentioned, including that her experiences mirrored these of one other girl, Anna Ruch, who told the Times that the Governor touched her decrease again and requested to kiss her at a marriage reception. “He would find a way to, like, touch me in passing—getting on the plane, getting off the plane,” Boylan mentioned. “He frequently stared at my legs.”
Kelsey DePalo, who met Boylan when each attended Wellesley College, informed me that Boylan was initially excited to work with Cuomo, however her perspective quickly modified. “She would talk about how he was creepy,” DePalo recalled. “We would talk about, you know, how when, if someone opens a door for you, they can open a door, or they can open a door and put their hand on the small of your back. They can lean over to tell you something, or lean over to tell you something and also put their hand on your knee.” She added, “You can sometimes catch someone, like, looking at your outfit in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Or commenting on your appearance. And so she would describe how he gave her the creeps, and was very touchy-feely in ways that made her feel highly uncomfortable.”
Another pal, in addition to Boylan’s mom and husband, informed me that Boylan had mentioned related issues with them in 2016 and 2017. Boylan’s mom, Karen Boylan, noticed the conduct as a sample. “I hoped she would stay away from him,” she informed me. Karen informed me that, years earlier, she had stop a job as an accountant at a regulation agency after her boss sexually harassed her. Boylan was in highschool on the time, and informed me that her mom’s expertise, which she referred to in her first tweets about her harassment allegations, deeply affected her. Boylan’s mom mentioned that she had described the harassment to her daughter to arrange her for what she would possibly face within the office. “It was something that we talked about a lot while she was growing up,” Karen informed me. “You know, you hope your children learn from this.”
In an e-mail despatched on August 4, 2016, Karen wrote, to her daughter, “I was thinking after our conversation last night about Governor Cuomo… I would hate (couldn’t tolerate) living with a partner or husband who behaved like that with women. It sounds very inappropriate what he says to you too.” Three months later, Boylan forwarded her mom an e-mail through which a Cuomo staffer requested Boylan’s supervisor whether or not she could be at an occasion the Governor was attending. “It’s gross,” Boylan informed her mom, in a textual content that day. “I just wish I could be told how great I am based on my intelligence and abilities rather than some dumb thing.” (A spokesperson for Cuomo mentioned that the staffer who despatched the e-mail “oversaw events and scheduling, so it was her job to understand what relevant senior members of the team—male and female—would be attending Governor events.”)
Boylan mentioned that the Governor ceaselessly sought her out, generally taking her away from substantive tasks to satisfy a job she felt was decorative. The Regional Economic Development Council awards, in Albany, in December, 2016, had been the end result of a 12 months’s work for Boylan. The financial awards to native companies and organizations are an element of Cuomo’s financial technique and had been a centerpiece of Boylan’s portfolio. After the awards, a Cuomo aide aggressively pressed Boylan to return to New York City on a helicopter with Cuomo and Maria Bartiromo, a tv host, who had spoken on the occasion. Boylan refused. “He likes to put women next to each other,” Boylan mentioned. “Like we’re part of his tools, or his little, you know, dolls.” (A spokesperson for Cuomo mentioned that the flight preparations had been “not a point of contention.”) Just a few days later, Benton, the Cuomo aide, e-mailed Boylan, telling her that the Governor had recommended Boylan lookup a girl that colleagues had informed her was romantically linked to the Governor. “You could be sisters,” Benton wrote. “Except you’re the better looking sister.” (Benton informed me, “That was my attempt at banter, not his.”)
At a vacation social gathering held at an Albany conference middle later that month, Boylan mentioned, when the Governor approached her, she left the room. That night time, she mentioned, the younger male aide, whom Boylan mentioned had been bullied, known as and informed her that the Governor needed her to return to the Capitol. (The aide declined to touch upon the decision.) As Boylan walked to Cuomo’s workplace within the Capitol, she known as her husband and informed him that she was afraid. In an announcement, her husband mentioned that he may “sense absolute terror in her voice.” Cuomo confirmed her his workplace, and known as consideration to a cigar field that he informed her was a present from President Bill Clinton. Since childhood, Boylan had idolized Hillary Clinton. She as soon as waited in line for hours to have a photograph taken together with her, an expertise that she mentioned “changed my life.” Boylan mentioned that the apparent reference to Clinton’s sexual conduct disturbed her, as a result of the Governor knew that she thought-about Hillary Clinton a job mannequin. “It was deeply distressing,” Boylan informed me.