‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide spills her story of sexual harassment and bullying in op-ed

What a difference a year makes, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was being built up as a potential savior in the Democratic Party this time a year ago while candidate Joe Biden was tanking in the party’s primary.

The build-up continued much of the year, as the corrupt media touted his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as if he was a miracle worker — never mind that Cuomo was actively concealing the truth, as the nation recently learned.

The bottom has since dropped out on the Democratic governor, as his media allies have been forced to be a little more honest in their coverage and members of his own party are turning against him. And now a stubborn sexual harassment claim has been given new life.

Lindsey Boylan, who served as Cuomo’s deputy secretary for economic development and as a special adviser from 2015 until 2018, according to her LinkedIn page, wrote an op-ed titled, “My story of working with Governor Cuomo.”

The attention-grabbing opening quote reads: “Let’s play strip poker.”

Boylan said Cuomo made the “crude” comment in Oct. 2017, while flying home from an event in Western New York, noting that Cuomo’s press aide was “to my right and a state trooper behind us.” She said she responded with sarcasm in an effort to “play it cool.”

“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,” she wrote. “His inappropriate behavior toward women 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.”

In December, Boylan wrote, a former Cuomo staffer confided to her that she had also been the subject of Cuomo’s workplace harassment, and when she saw the governor’s name being mentioned as a potential candidate for U.S. Attorney General, Boylan said that “set me off.”

It was then that she posted a pair of tweets that got little traction in the media:

 

“In a few tweets,” she wrote in a piece published this week on Medium.com, “I told the world what a few close friends, family members and my therapist had known for years: Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just as he had done with so many other women.”

Cuomo responded to the tweets by denying the allegations, “It’s just not true.”

Boylan, who failed in a 2020 primary challenge of Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said information from “a supposed confidential personnel file” was leaked to the media “in an effort to smear me,” and remarked on Assemblymember Ron Kim speaking out last week about the intimidation and abuse he has faced from Cuomo.

She also cited Mayor Bill de Blasio saying of Cuomo, “The bullying is nothing new.”

“There are many more of us, but most are too afraid to speak up,” Boylan insisted. “I’m compelled to tell my story because no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation — not by the Governor or anyone else.”

Not that she doesn’t expect Cuomo and his top aides to try “to further disparage me.”

After joining the administration in 2015, Boylan said she was cautioned, “Be careful around the Governor.”

“My first encounter with the Governor came at a January 6, 2016, event at Madison Square Garden to promote the new Pennsylvania Station-Farley Complex project,” she recalled. “After his speech, he stopped to talk to me. I was new on the job and surprised by how much attention he paid me.

“My boss soon informed me that the Governor had a ‘crush’ on me,” she continued. “It was an uncomfortable but all-too-familiar feeling: the struggle to be taken seriously by a powerful man who tied my worth to my body and my appearance.”

The piece tells how Cuomo had a rumored former girlfriend named Lisa Shields and that Stephanie Benton, Director of the Governor’s Offices, told her that Cuomo said “we could be sisters” and I was “the better looking sister.”

“The Governor began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues. It was degrading,” wrote the former aide.

“I had complained to friends that the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” Boylan shared. “His senior staff began keeping tabs on my whereabouts.”

She described a particularly troubling incident in Dec. 2016, explaining that after avoiding the governor at a holiday gathering at Albany, she received a call telling her Cuomo wanted to see her at the Capitol.

“As the black wrought-iron elevator took me to the second floor, I called my husband,” Boylan said. “I told him I was afraid of what might happen. That was unlike me. I was never afraid.”

And while she did meet with Cuomo alone, Boylan said nothing inappropriate had occurred, but the “inappropriate gestures became more frequent” and his “pervasive harassment extended beyond just me,” noting remarks he made to female colleagues about their appearance and romantic relationships.

“I tried to excuse his behavior. 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,” she wrote. “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.”

“After that, my fears worsened. I came to work nauseous every day. My relationship with his senior team — mostly women — grew hostile after I started speaking up for myself,” she continued. “I was reprimanded and told to get in line by his top aides, but I could no longer ignore it.”

The alleged kiss took place sometime in 2018, though Boylan was not specific on the exact date. But on Sept. 26 of that year, she said, “I sent a mass email informing staff members of my resignation.”

Boylan concluded by insisting that her truth “isn’t about seeking revenge,” and while she said she had long looked up to Cuomo, “his abusive behavior needs to stop.”

“I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same,” she said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., responded to Boylan’s essay to call Cuomo a “criminal sexual predator,” insisting that he “must immediately resign.”

“Governor Cuomo has earned his title as Worst Governor in America, and now every New Yorker knows that he is a criminal sexual predator,” Stefanik said in a prepared statement, according to the New York Post.

“I have served in Congress during the height of the #MeToo movement leading to resignations and retirements of my colleagues,” she continued. “Sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace is not a political issue, it is about right and wrong. Governor Cuomo must immediately resign.”

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Tom Tillison

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