A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday accused the governor of kissing her without her consent while she served as deputy secretary for economic development in 2018.
Lindsey Boylan, now a candidate for Manhattan borough president, released a detailed account of her allegations against her former boss in a blog post. Boylan made public her harassment accusations against the governor in December, though she did not go into specifics at the time.
Cuomo Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement, “Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.”
In the same press release from Cuomo’s office, four other members of his staff disputed a single detail of Boylan’s account. Boylan wrote that while on a plane from a Western New York event in 2017 with the governor, a press aide and state trooper, Cuomo told her, “Let’s play strip poker.” Cuomo’s office released a record of all flights from October 2017 and said “there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper.”
The record does show Boylan was on several flights with the governor and other members of his staff. Boylan did not claim in her blog post that she was alone on the flight with just the governor, a press aide and state trooper. But the four Cuomo staffers said in a statement included in the release, “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”
The new details emerged as Cuomo is fighting allegations of mishandling nursing home data and policies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in New York last year.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal probe into coronavirus-related nursing home deaths in the state. New York Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo’s fellow Democrat, released a report last month saying the state had underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
Cuomo’s behavior toward colleagues has seen renewed scrutiny after New York Assemblyman Ron Kim accused the governor of vowing to “destroy” him after Kim criticized Cuomo’s handling of nursing home outbreaks. Cuomo’s senior advisor denied that Kim’s allegation is true.
In her blog post Wednesday, Boylan referenced Kim’s accusations and expanded on her own, including screenshots of emails from her time working for the governor.
Lindsey Boylan attends The 9th Annual Elly Awards Hosted By The Women’s Forum Of New York on June 17, 2019 in New York City.
Mike Coppola | Getty Images
Boylan said after she met the governor for the first time in 2016, her boss told her Cuomo had a “crush” on her. She said she later complained to friends that he “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”
She also alleged Cuomo “made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues” and “ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others.”
“I tried to excuse his behavior,” Boylan wrote. “I told myself ‘it’s only words.’ But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.”
Boylan wrote that she was afraid a co-worker had seen the kiss and 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 said she announced her resignation in September 2018.
She also shared a screenshot of a 2016 email that appeared to be from Stephanie Benton, director of the governor’s offices, saying Cuomo suggested Boylan look up pictures of his rumored former girlfriend because “You could be sisters. Except you’re the better looking sister.”
Boylan accused high-ranking women in Cuomo’s office of creating a culture that “normalized” the behavior of their boss, calling out top aide Melissa DeRosa by name. She said two other women had reached out to her about their own experiences with the governor after she posted her original allegations online in December.
“One described how she lived in constant fear, scared of what would happen to her if she rejected the Governor’s advances,” Boylan wrote. “The other said she was instructed by the Governor to warn staff members who upset him that their jobs could be at risk. Both told me they are too afraid to speak out.”