A former aide said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo subjected her to “pervasive harassment” when she worked for him, including numerous inappropriate comments in front of other people and a kiss on the lips while they were alone.
“Let’s play strip poker,” the former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo told her on one occasion.
“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,” Boylan wrote in an essay posted Wednesday on the website Medium.
Boylan, now a candidate for Manhattan borough president in New York City, worked for the Cuomo administration from 2015 to 2018 as a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor.
She tweeted in December that Cuomo had sexually harassed her “for years” — an allegation that Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term, denied as “just not true,” although he did not get into specifics at the time.
In the Medium essay, Boylan said her problems began after her first encounter with Cuomo at an event in Manhattan in January 2016.
“My boss soon informed me that the governor had a ‘crush’ on me,” Boylan said.
As time went on, she wrote, she complained to friends that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”
Boylan alleged that Cuomo made the comment about playing strip poker when they were flying home from an event in western New York on his “taxpayer-funded jet” in October 2017.
“He was seated facing me, so close our knees almost touched. His press aide was to my right and a state trooper behind us,” Boylan wrote. She said that after he made the crude comment, she responded sarcastically, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“I tried to play it cool. But in that moment, I realized just how acquiescent I had become,” she wrote.
She said the harassment “extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were ‘money and power.'”
She said she tried to console herself that it was “just words” but that Cuomo then crossed another line in 2018, after she gave him a one-on-one briefing about economic and infrastructure projects at his office in Manhattan.
“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,” she wrote.
“After that, my fears worsened. I came to work nauseous every day.” she wrote. She resigned in September 2018.
Cuomo’s office denied the latest allegations.
“As we said before, Ms. Boylan’s claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false,” press secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement.
Girouard issued a statement on behalf of four other Cuomo employees who had taken flights with Boylan and Cuomo in 2017 that said, “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”
Girouard said manifests of Cuomo’s flights in October 2017 show that there “was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper.” Boylan’s essay did not say those were the only people on the flight.
Boylan did not respond to requests for comment.
In her essay, she cited state Assembly member Ron Kim’s decision to speak out about the “bullying” he said he had been subjected to by Cuomo as part of the reason she is speaking out now. Kim, a Democrat, said Cuomo vowed to “destroy” him for criticizing his handling of Covid-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.
Cuomo denied last week that he had done so. “I didn’t say anything about Assemblyman Ron Kim. He attacked me,” Cuomo told reporters.
Boylan wrote that she is not “seeking revenge. I was proud to work in the Cuomo Administration. For so long I had looked up to the Governor. But his abusive behavior needs to stop.”