New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, who said that the governor consistently made inappropriate sexual comments about her and harassed her by attempting to kiss and touch her.
Boylan alleges that Cuomo’s top female staffers also “normalized” his behavior. Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and special advisor to Cuomo, said that he sought her out and even had staffers arrange meetings with her where he made a number of inappropriate comments.
Boylan said that Cuomo propositioned her to play strip poker during a flight from an event in Oct. 2017, in an essay she published on Wednesday.
Cuomo’s office denied the claims in a statement to the press. “As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” said Cuomo’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard.
Girouard also released a statement on behalf of four current and former employees who were on October 2017 flights with Boylan and Cuomo, saying “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”
Boylan also described an encounter in 2016 when Cuomo allegedly arranged through a handler to meet her in his Albany office, where he provided her with a tour and “smirked” when he showed her a cigar box that was given to him by former president Bill Clinton.
Boylan says that she interpreted his gesture as an innuendo referencing Clinton’s sexual relationship with his former intern Monica Lewinsky in the mid-1990s.
Boylan alleges that she was warned by other staffers when she joined Cuomo’s administration to be “careful” around the governor, saying that his behavior “was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was.”
The former Cuomo aide alleged that Stephanie Benton, director of the governor’s offices, told her in an email that Cuomo suggested she look up images of Lisa Shields. Shields was rumored to be his former girlfriend. Boylan says that Benton suggested that she and Shields looked alike and “could be sisters,” suggesting that Boylan was the “better-looking sister.”
“The Governor began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues. It was degrading,” Boylan wrote. Boylan produced evidence of her interactions with Benton with screenshots of the emails.
In another incident, Boylan says that Cuomo allegedly kissed her on the lips without her consent.
“I was in shock, but I kept walking,” Boylan wrote. “The idea that someone might think I held my high-ranking position because of the Governor’s ‘crush’ on me was more demeaning than the kiss itself.”
Boylan had previously accused the governor of sexual harassment last year, but declined to elaborate on her experiences at the time. In her essay, the former aide says that she expects Cuomo and his aides to disparage her “just as they’ve done with Assemblymember Kim,” referencing New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, who recently labeled Cuomo an “abuser” for threatening to ruin his career. Boylan is currently running for Manhattan borough president.