By Samantha Milowitz || Op-Eds Editor
At the beginning of the pandemic, New York was hit the hardest; for months, I did not leave my New York City apartment out of fear of getting COVID simply by walking down the street. The city that never sleeps turned into the quietest and most deserted city on earth, with the only interaction between New Yorkers being yelling at each other from one window to the other. For New Yorkers like me, it was sometimes hard to look towards a brighter future. We needed a hero, someone to tell us it was going to be okay, to help us through.
That hero was Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Between the months of March 2020 to August 2020, Governor Cuomo became an overnight icon to New York citizens; people marveled over social media at his handling of the pandemic, his frank demeanor, his clear (however unnecessary) slideshows, and even his sexy Italian look. Simply mentioning Cuomo made New York City girls swoon and drool inside their masks. But the truth is that we only loved him because he gave us someone to turn to at a time when there was no one else: Who else were we going to look to? The President of the United States? Absolutely not. The Vice president? Definitely not. So when Governor Cuomo came on the scene, providing us with his daily pandemic briefings, we fell into his hands and said “you look like you know what you’re doing. Help us.”
Now of course we know the truth.
Over the past couple of weeks, Cuomo has gone from hero to zero: First, it was revealed that Cuomo withheld information regarding the number of deaths in New York nursing homes by a drastic amount in order to downplay the effect of the pandemic in New York (which definitely, definitely helped overall). Then, not one but three women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Cuomo. Detailed allegations. Two of the women were his former aides. Lindsay Boylan, one of his past aides, described an encounter where Cuomo kissed her unprompted in his office. The other aide, Charlotte Bennett, described an encounter where he insinuated wanting to have sex with her. The third woman, Anna Ruch, had a picture of the encounter where Cuomo was grasping onto her face, nonconsensually.
Never have I ever seen someone go from so high to so low in such a short period; just a couple of months ago, Cuomo was being asked if he would run for president, and now he doesn’t even know if he can hold onto his current job. But the thing is, as someone who used to sing Cuomo’s praises, you might think I would be upset, surprised about this whole thing. However, I’m really not. It makes sense to me: the lying about death toll numbers and the sexual assault allegations—it’s not so out of the blue to me. It’s disappointing, sure, but not surprising. Cuomo has always been, as I’d say, an “Extreme New Yorker”: He’s Italian, hot-blooded, constantly seems angry for no apparent reason, knowingly powerful, and a good liar. And, at this point, as sad as it may be, I’m no longer surprised when powerful white men are identified as perpetrators of unwanted sexual acts.
While Cuomo issued an apology regarding the incidents, his apology was less than convincing, calling the sexual allegations, “unwanted flirtation” instead of what it truly was: sexual harassment and assault. Now, New York is getting back on its feet, but it is no thanks to Governor Cuomo: It is thanks to the New Yorkers who fought back against COVID, who followed CDC guidelines, who supported local businesses and restaurants.
We did help make Cuomo a hero in the beginning, but he pushed the hero-narrative too: Why else do you think he would write a book entitled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” before the pandemic is even close to over? Cuomo wanted to be better than Trump, de Blasio, or Pence, but the truth is that he’s just as bad. He wanted to be a hero so badly that he was willing to hurt others to hide the truth. And where has it gotten him? Right at the beginning again. He has disappointed New York. He has let us down. And you know something about New Yorkers? We hold grudges. And when we get angry, boy do we get angry.
Senior Samantha Milowitz is the Op-Eds editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.