Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wanted female staffers to defend him against sexual harassment allegations — claiming that’s what President Biden got when facing accusations of his own during the 2020 election.
Cuomo referenced the president during an 11-hour grilling by investigators about the claims of groping and other inappropriate behavior that eventually forced him out of office, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday.
“I thought if we were going to do a response, a response from female staff would have been the best vehicle a la Joe Biden,” Cuomo said.
The investigators hired by state Attorney General Letitia James to conduct the probe had asked Cuomo about the draft of a letter he and his aides crafted attacking accuser Lindsey Boylan’s credibility.
Cuomo said he had suggested “just women” sign on to the proposed open letter or op-ed piece, when questioned about a version of it that included the names of former communications director Dani Lever and ex-director of state operations Cathy Calhoun, as well as of lawyer Alphonso David.
“I thought that’s what — I’m pretty sure that’s what the Biden campaign did, but — and that’s what I was thinking of,” Cuomo told investigators.
“My suggestion was just have female staffers respond. That’s — was my main point.”
During the 2020 race, Biden was accused by a number of women of unwanted touching, and also faced an allegation of sexual assault by former aide Tara Reade from when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s. He has denied her allegation.
Several women who had worked for or with the then-Democratic presidential nominee put out statements in his defense at the time. At least 74 former staffers, including 62 women, told PBS NewsHour in May 2020 they never experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden.
Cuomo was also grilled about how his underlings attempted to discredit Boylan, the first accuser to publicly come forward, after she tweeted in December 2020 that the governor “sexually harassed” her over her looks.
His top adviser Melissa DeRosa and his spokesman Rich Azzopardi allegedly directed administration allies to coordinate distributing confidential personal files detailing workplace complaints against Boylan.
But Cuomo told the investigators he didn’t remember being part of any conversation about releasing the records.
“There was a general conversation on what is the right response to the entire situation,” he said.
“Different ideas — you know, we just all lived through the Biden campaign. I thought something that the Biden campaign did, which was intelligent was, rather than Biden saying, ‘I think this,’ former staff people for Biden said, ‘I think this’ — female staff people,” Cuomo explained. “I thought that was more credible than Biden just saying.”
The Cuomo administration ended up putting out a short formal statement denying the allegations.
“We talked about a number of alternatives. But they were all debated to death, and then we literally wound up doing nothing. And I had, like, a two-line statement,” Cuomo told the investigators.