Lindsey Boylan, a former staffer to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, accused him of a pattern of sexual harassment in a Medium post on Wednesday, alleging that he made a series of “inappropriate gestures,” including repeated unwanted touching, asking her to play strip poker, and kissing her on the lips after a meeting.
“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,” Boylan wrote in her post. She also said that she was warned by one friend with political connections to “be careful around the Governor,” that his “pervasive harassment went just beyond me.” She added that those around Cuomo “normalized” his behavior.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
This is not the first time that Boylan, a 2020 Democratic congressional candidate who’s currently running for Borough President of Manhattan, has alleged that Cuomo sexually harassed her. In a series of tweets in December, she wrote that Cuomo sexually harassed her “for years,” but didn’t raise specific examples at the time.
In December, a press secretary for the governor told VICE News that there was “simply no truth to these claims.”
The governor also publicly denied her allegations at the time.
“I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has,” Cuomo said at a December press conference. “But it’s just not true.”
Boylan said a former Cuomo staffer contacted her following her December tweets to say that she had been harassed by the governor as well.
On Wednesday, Boylan wrote that Cuomo said “let’s play strip poker” in October 2017 while they were flying home from an event in western New York on the governor’s jet.
“I tried to play it cool,” she recalled. “But in that moment, I realized just how acquiescent I had become.”
Boylan alleges that the sexual harassment began as early as 2016, when her boss told her following her first meeting with the governor that Cuomo had a “crush” on her. She wrote that she told friends at the time that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” and staffers would often ask about her whereabouts on his behalf.
In her post, Boylan included a screenshot of a December 2016 email she received from Cuomo staffer Stephanie Benton, who relayed a message from Cuomo to “look up Lisa Shields,” who was formerly romantically linked to him.
“You could be sisters,” Benton wrote to Boylan. “Except you’re the better looking sister.”
In another alleged incident, Boylan said Cuomo called her up to his office during a holiday party, a one-on-one situation that made her uncomfortable enough to call her husband. “The Governor must have sensed my fear because he finally let me out of the office,” she wrote. “I tried to rationalize this incident in my head. At least he didn’t touch me. That made me feel safer.”
But in 2018, after being promoted to Cuomo’s deputy secretary of economic development, she was leaving a one-on-one briefing in New York City when she says Cuomo kissed her on the lips.
“I was in shock, but I kept walking,” she 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 resigned from her position in September 2018. Personnel memos written in 2018 seem to show that Boylan left after complaints about her behavior, the Associated Press reported last year. Several women alleged that Boylan “had behaved in a way towards them that was harassing, belittling, and had yelled and been generally unprofessional.”
In the Medium post, Boylan said she’d never seen these personnel files, and that they were “leaked to the media in an effort to smear me.”
Cuomo's control over New York politics has been stable for years. During the COVID pandemic, he took on a national persona of a calm governor conducting widely viewed news conferences.
But he has come under fire recently over the state’s failure to report nursing home deaths during the COVID pandemic, and allegations that he covered up the number of fatalities.
Last week, New York Assemblyman Ron Kim said he received a phone call from the governor in which Cuomo threatened to destroy his career because of his criticism over nursing homes.
Cuomo has disputed Kim's allegations, but his polling numbers have slipped recently, and New York’s Democratic-run legislature began moving last week to strip Cuomo of the unilateral emergency powers granted to him to deal with the pandemic. A measure introduced by members of the New York Democratic Party to censure Cuomo over the nursing home scandal was introduced this week as well.
In her post, Boylan wrote that she was proud to work in Cuomo’s administration, but that “this abusive behavior needs to stop.”
“No one should have to be defined or destroyed by this kind of sexual harassment. Nor should they be revictimized if they decide to speak their own truth,” she wrote. “I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same.”