Cuomo’s harassment scandal raises new #MeToo test for Democrats

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) was the furthest of any Democratic senator asked on the issue. Although she Relying on the attorney general’s investigation, he suggested that “there may be a turning point with respect to Governor Cuomo, where he should resign.”

The #MeToo movement that erupted into a national sexual harassment confrontation in 2017, fueled in part by the election of Donald Trump, ended the careers of members of Congress in both parties. Perhaps no one became a greater symbol of the Democratic Party’s attempt to enact a zero-tolerance political policy for sexual harassment. than Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), who resigned after seven women accused him of touching them inappropriately. But senators view the allegations against Cuomo differently than Franken, who was a colleague.

While Cuomo is well known and could run for higher office, senators largely leave it up to New York state officials to decide the governor’s political fate.

“I am pleased that the attorney general is conducting a very rigorous investigation. The most important thing is that women are heard and taken seriously, ”said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). As for whether Cuomo should resign, he said: “At this point, I think people in New York should decide that.”

Democrats also denounced the sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during their confirmation fight in the Supreme Court, but that situation was even clearer: Kavanaugh was a nominee they had an obligation to investigate.

“One of the baselines is that claims like this should be investigated. He now has an investigation in New York by the attorney general, and I assume he will make recommendations, ”said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.). “So the difference is that Al never understood that.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) Predicted that Cuomo was “lost,” but compared the governor’s situation to Franken’s this way: “The Senate controls his own.”

The two Democratic senators from New York, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have strongly backed the attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo. Although Cuomo said he plans to cooperate with the investigation and apologized for inconveniencing the women, the governor made it clear Wednesday that he has no intention of resigning. In addition to allegations of sexual harassment, Cuomo also faces an investigation into his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

So far, Rep. Kathleen Rice (DN.Y.) is the only member of the state delegation calling for Cuomo’s resignation. Rice urged Franken to resign during her own #MeToo flap in 2017 days before Gillibrand became the first senator to ask her colleague to step down.

Other Democratic members of the New York delegation, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, are waiting for the investigation to unfold. Representative Yvette Clarke told reporters that she is “a huge fan of due process,” while Representative Gregory Meeks described the problem as “very, very serious.”

The allegations against Cuomo began last week when his former assistant, Lindsey Boylan, wrote an essay accusing the governor of asking him to play strip poker and forcibly kissing her on the lips. Days later, a second former assistant, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked her about her sex life, including whether she would consider having sex with older men. A third woman, Anna Ruch, showed up this week and said Cuomo asked her if he could kiss her at a wedding reception.

“Any public official has to realize that what they say in the workplace is subject to scrutiny,” said Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who declined to comment on Cuomo’s future. “In these cases, these women are going through a difficult time and are under a lot of pressure to come forward. And they have to be heard. It’s more than just a stock review. The things you say are relevant. ”

Some in the Republican Party see a double standard in the Democrats’ treatment of Cuomo compared to other high-profile misconduct allegations, although Trump faced more than 20 allegations of sexual harassment and assault, which Republicans rarely address. The former president has denied any wrongdoing.

Even so, Outside of Schumer and Gillibrand, several Democratic senators said they aren’t paying much attention to the Cuomo controversy and showed little enthusiasm to speak out about it.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he did not live in New York and “had no thoughts.” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Democrat of Nevada) said she is focused on President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan. When asked for a comment, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said he had “the same thing everyone else is doing: completing the investigation.”

One senator, who addressed the thorny issue on condition of anonymity, said Democrats have been reluctant to publicly ask Cuomo to resign despite not tolerating the sexual harassment allegations because it is a controversy in another state. Voters do not want senators to meddle in the affairs of other states, the senator added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), who chided Democrats for their treatment of Kavanaugh during his confirmation, said his colleagues are “involved in the hub.”

“They were strong, vocal, ‘Kavanaugh needs to go,'” Graham said. “Now they have someone, a prominent Democrat, and they are figuring out how to handle it. Here’s my advice: Handle them anyway. That way you don’t have to worry about it. “

Anna Gronewold contributed to this report.

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