New York mayor calls for investigation after woman accuses Cuomo of sexual harassment

By Edward Helmore

New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has called for an independent investigation into the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, a day after a former aide accused the governor of sexual harassment.

In an essay published in Medium on Wednesday, former aide Lindsey Boylan described several problematic episodes with Cuomo, including an unsolicited kiss in his Manhattan office, an invitation to play strip poker on a government airplane, and an internal email from another aide indicating that the governor considered her a “better looking sister” of a rumored former girlfriend.

The governor’s press office responded to the “strip poker” element of Boylan’s allegations on Wednesday with flight records. “Ms Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” a statement read.

In remarks on Thursday, De Blasio, who has a contentious relationship with the governor, issued a call for an investigation into Cuomo’s behavior. “These allegations are really disturbing … This kind of behavior, if it’s true, is just unacceptable. We’ve got to get the truth about this,” he said.

Boylan’s allegations come as the governor, who was for much of last year hailed as a hero for his handling of the pandemic, also faces a federal investigation into claims his administration deliberately undercounted the number Covid-related deaths in New York nursing homes.

Cuomo, who is facing calls for his resignation, is also in a showdown with angry state legislators from his own Democratic party who are looking to strip him of emergency powers they granted him during the pandemic.

Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, went public with allegations of alleged sexual harassment in a series of remarks on Twitter in December but did not provide details.

But on Wednesday, she offered details, including describing an incident in 2018 when she said that she and the governor were alone in his Manhattan office. “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.

In an earlier incident, in 2016, Boylan wrote that she was emailed by Stephanie Benton, director of the governor’s offices, who suggested she look up images of Lisa Shields – his rumored former girlfriend – because “we could be sisters” and “I was “the better looking sister”.

The governor, Boylan added, “began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues. It was degrading.” Boylan also wrote that she had complained to friends that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs”.

In her essay, Boylan said: “Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.”

“His inappropriate behavior toward women,” she continued, “was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”