Chris Cuomo, a prime time host on CNN, had a question for his brother: “With all of this adulation that you’re getting for doing your job, are you thinking about running for president?"
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, where polls showed 87% approval for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, insisted he was not. But the question persisted as Cuomo became the most prominent and trusted Democratic voice during a public health crisis that had then US president Donald Trump flailing.
That was March 2020. Eighteen months later, Cuomo, 63, is not running for president nor even governor. On Tuesday a fast, furious and vertical fall from grace was complete when he announced, with a non-apology apology, his resignation in the face of sexual harassment allegations from 11 donne.
It was comeuppance for towering arrogance and egotism – Cuomo even wrote a book about his Covid-19 heroism – and evidence of a growing shift from New York’s notorious macho and hardball politics, where more young women are winning elections. His successor, Kathy Hochul, will be the 57th governor and the first woman to hold the post.
Cuomo’s long and now failed quest to emerge from his father’s shadow is the stuff of Shakespeare – or one of New York’s many shrinks. Mario Cuomo, from an Italian-American family, served three terms as state governor from 1983 per 1994 and considered running for president but decided against.
Andrew Cuomo cut his political teeth as a hard-nosed campaign adviser to his father and, after a stint as a prosecutor and lawyer, joined President Bill Clinton’s White House and later became housing secretary.
Nel 1990 he joined an even more gilded political dynasty when he married Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of former attorney general Robert F Kennedy, though they would divorce 15 years later.
Cuomo lost the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2002 despite strong fundraising but successfully ran for attorney general in 2006. He followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming governor in 2011. He helped push through legislation that legalised gay marriage, began lifting the minimum wage to $15 and enhanced sexual harassment protections for women in the workplace.
Unlike his cerebral “philosopher king” father, Cuomo became known as an ambitious and ruthless political street fighter willing to retaliate against perceived enemies whose bare-knuckle style in private often alienated others. He was at constant loggerheads with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, once even clashing over the fate of a deer that had strayed into Manhattan.
But the coronavirus pandemic set up Cuomo to surpass his father and launch him as a possible contender for president. His daily televised briefings, accompanied by a PowerPoint slide deck, mesmerised TV viewers and won an international Emmy award. They stood in sharp contrast to Trump’s confusing efforts to downplay the virus and speculate on miracle cures such as disinfectant.
Cuomo had been expected to cruise to a fourth term as governor in 2022. But his hubris was exposed when he wrote a lucrative book on leadership in a crisis; New York attorney general Letitia James is looking into whether Cuomo broke the law by using members of his staff to help write and promote it.
Quindi, in February, two former aides accused the governor of sexually harassing them. Several other women came forward soon after that with their own accounts of misconduct. A report commissioned byJames sealed Cuomo’s fate, finding that he sexually harassed 11 donne and retaliated after some made complaints.
The attorney general’s investigators said Cuomo subjected women to unwanted kisses, groped their breasts or buttocks, made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation”.
The chorus of voices that once called on Cuomo to run for president were now urging him to resign as governor, and New York’s state assembly was drawing up impeachment papers. For once, Cuomo could not punch his way out. Martedì, he bowed to the inevitable but, many felt, not with grace.