“Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, over a barrage of sexual harassment allegations in a fall from grace a year after he was widely hailed nationally for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during some of the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
By turns defiant and chastened, the 63-year-old Democrat emphatically denied intentionally mistreating women and called the pressure for his ouster politically motivated. But he said that fighting back in this ‘too hot’ political climate would subject the state to months of turmoil.
The third-term governor’s resignation, which will take effect in two weeks, was announced as momentum built in the Legislature to remove him by impeachment and after nearly the entire Democratic establishment had turned against him, with President Joe Biden joining those calling on him to resign.
Investigators said he subjected women to unwanted kisses; groped their breasts or buttocks or otherwise touched them inappropriately; made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives; and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.” (“Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment allegations,” Marine Villenueve, Associated Press, Aug. 11, 2021)
“How the mighty have fallen” may well be an apt acclamation that many of us would mutter, upon hearing the news of the charismatic governor’s fall from power. As the account above recalls, the politician was highly praised for his decisive leadership in New York at the beginning of the pandemic, at a time when many state leaders, and even the president of the United States did not seem to have a clue on what to do with the impending catastrophe. There were some, in fact, who considered him to be future presidential timber, what with the Democratic Party being led by ageing veterans, with no clearly identifiable successors in sight. Now though, this kind of thought about his future may seem, at best, wishful thinking.
It may well be, as Cuomo insists, that there was no malice in his actions, that he was just being playful, and sexual harassment was not really on his mind when he was doing those alleged actions on a number of his accusers. But we live in different times, and if there is anything the governor can be rightly accused of being guilty even without the benefit of a trial, it is that he failed to evolve his personal conduct — which admittedly would have been within the realms of tolerated male behavior a generation ago — to something that is more in keeping with the social norms of this day and age.
I have been around in corporate life long enough to remember the time when sexual innuendos and green jokes were as common as the presence of ashtrays in boardrooms. Female colleagues were expected to tolerate this behavior, and were even encouraged to laugh at jokes cracked at their expense.
Cracking those same jokes today would be a cause for disciplinary action, and even for outright dismissal. And it’s about time too. For too long, women were forced to suffer the indignity of being the butt of jokes and the object of ridicule, and in many cases this male “privilege” became a way for men to wield power and dominance over their female counterparts.
As the song from Bob Dylan goes –
Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Governor Cuomo’s unceremonious exit from public life should therefore serve as a powerful reminder to those in positions of power of influence — be they in the private or public sectors, that indeed the times they are a-changin’, and for those who refuse to swim, they will — as the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Patt O’Riley and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo painfully found out — simply sink like stones.
August 16, 2021
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