Two years ago, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York defended her role in demanding the resignation of Sen. Al Franken for alleged sexual harassment, dismissing concerns that she led a rush to judgment of her Democratic colleague without an investigation.
“I’d do it again,” Ms. Gillibrand told an interviewer.
But she hasn’t done so this month with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s burgeoning scandal.
Six women now have accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, and a majority of New York’s 19 Democratic House lawmakers have urged the governor to quit.
But Ms. Gillibrand? Crickets, at least on the subject of the governor’s resignation.
She has said that Mr. Cuomo’s alleged behavior is “completely unacceptable.”
“I think there should be an investigation by the [state] attorney general I think these allegations are serious,” Ms. Gillibrand told WRBG in Albany last week.
Pressed on what it would take for her to call for the governor’s resignation, she said only, “I’ve been clear on my position.”
She has shut down further questions from reporters at the Capitol.
Ms. Gilliband also demanded in 2018 that the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh be pulled due to decades-old sexual harassment allegations against him, saying they were “disqualifying.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York also has resisted calling for Mr. Cuomo to step down. He, too, was instrumental in forcing Mr. Franken to quit in 2017.
But Ms. Gillibrand, in particular, has forged a reputation as a leader of the “#MeToo” movement. Some political observers say her reluctance to call out Mr. Cuomo is a tacit admission that she went too far, too fast in Mr. Franken’s case.
“Gillibrand is afraid because of her premature call in the Al Franken case,” tweeted Alan Steinberg, a former EPA administrator for New York and New Jersey and an adjunct political science professor at Monmouth University.
Cuomo accuser Karen Hinton, who says the governor made inappropriate advances toward her in a hotel room in 2000 after a work event, said Ms. Gillibrand should take a stand against Mr. Cuomo.
“Dems punished Gillibrand’s stand against Franken and now she’s ‘waiting’ for the Cuomo investigation,” Ms. Hinton said on Twitter. “But she should follow her heart and head and call on Cuomo to resign. Schumer will have to join her if she tells him #penispolitics needs to stop.”
Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan said Friday that she plans to launch a political action committee to fund a primary opponent for Mr. Schumer, who is up for reelection next year, and Ms. Gillibrand, who will be up for reelection in 2025.
Ms. Gillibrand says putting the focus on her to pass judgment on Mr. Cuomo is sexist.
“Asking every female elected in our state when a person should resign or not resign really isn’t the conversation we should be having,” she told Yahoo Finance. “It’s exceedingly frustrating because so many men who are also in public leadership aren’t asked these questions day to day. The women in our state are not meant to be judges, jurors and executioners.”
At least 13 House Democrats from New York, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called on Mr. Cuomo to resign.
“The repeated accusations against the Governor, and the manner in which he has responded to them, have made it impossible for him to continue to govern at this point,” Mr. Nadler said. “Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York. Governor Cuomo must resign.”
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney also was among those urging Mr. Cuomo to step down. The others are Reps. Jamal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Grace Meng, Yvette Clark, Adriano Espaillat, Nydia Velasquez and Anthony Delgado.
“As members of the New York delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, we believe these women, we believe the reporting, we believe the Attorney General, and we believe the fifty-five members of the New York State legislature, including the State Senate Majority Leader, who have concluded that Governor Cuomo can no longer effectively lead in the face of so many challenges,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Mr. Bowman said in a joint statement.
Mr. Cuomo broke into open warfare with his own party on Friday, accusing the Democratic lawmakers who are calling for his resignation of engaging in “politics at its worst.”
“Politicians who don’t know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and an opinion, are in my opinion reckless and dangerous,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters. “People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth.”
The Democratic governor vowed again, “I’m not going to resign. I never harassed anyone, I never abused anyone, I never assaulted anyone.”
Mr. Cuomo said of the allegations against him, “There is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period. I won’t speculate about people’s possible motives.”
He said as a former state attorney general, he knows “there are often many motivations for making an allegation. That is why you need to know the facts.”
The New York Assembly announced on Thursday that it will conduct an impeachment investigation of Mr. Cuomo’s actions. State Attorney General Letitia James also is conducting an independent probe.
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