Statement Analysis®

Did Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harass women?

This month, two woman accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing them. In December 2020, Lindsey Boylan tweeted that Governor Cuomo had made some unwanted comments towards her. In February 2021, she gave a more detailed statement about what happened. She said that in October 2017 while flying with Governor Cuomo and his entourage, the Governor, who was seated facing her, made the comment, "Let's play strip poker."

In 2018, Boylan accepted a position as Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to Governor Cuomo. One day that year, she was in Governor's Cuomo's office updating him on economic and infrastructure projects. As she got up to leave his office, the Governor stepped in front of her and kissed her on the lips. In September 2018, Boylan submitted her resignation.

On February 27, 2021, former aide to Governor Cuomo Charlotte Bennett claimed the Governor asked her if she was monogamous and if she had ever been with an older man.

On February 28, 2021, Governor Cuomo responded to the allegations by releasing the following statement/apology.

"Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office. I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends."

This is most likely a truthful statement. The Governor does not want to "offend anyone or cause any harm." If his "past interactions" included being flirtatious, he was probably hoping the women would respond in kind.

"At work, sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good natured way. I do it in public and in private. You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business."

This too is probably a truthful statement. The Governor likes to joke around and means "no offense."

"I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

The Governor said, "Things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation." I cannot figure out exactly what the Governor is saying. Had he said, "Things I have said have been misinterpreted as flirtation," I can understand what he is conveying. He has said things women thought were flirtatious but it was not his intention to be flirtatious. However, the Governor described it as "unwanted flirtation." There were women who viewed things he said as unwanted flirtation. He said this was a misinterpretation. Does that mean it was a wanted flirtation but they misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation? This sentence, as well as the entire statement, is poorly worded.

Also, notice he is talking about "things I have said." Not, things he has done.

To be clear, I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to. That's why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations.

The phrase, "To be clear" is used for emphasis. This is similar to saying, "Honest to God" or "To tell the truth" which indicates deception about 50 percent of the time.

In a denial, the first thing we look for is did the person deny the act? The allegations are inappropriate kissing, asking to play strip poker and asking someone if she was monogamous and ever been with an older man. The Governor does not deny these specific acts. He only talks in general terms.

Another thing we look for in some denials is to whom is the denial directed towards? The Governor used the generic pronouns "anybody" and "anyone." Some might say he is covering the bases in the event he offended someone who has not spoken about it. However, in a good denial, he would have mentioned these two women who have spoken up by name.

The word "never" in a denial often weakens the denial. This is because the word "never" means "not ever." When a person uses the word "never," he is talking about his entire lifetime. When a person talks about his entire lifetime, he is not addressing the specific issue at hand. Saying, "I haven't," is a better denial.

The Governor said, "I never inappropriately touched anybody." Most people view the word "touched" as placing your hands on someone. Most people do not equate the word "touched" with kissing someone.

Separately, my office has heard anecdotally that some people have reached out to Ms. Bennett to express displeasure about her coming forward. My message to anyone doing that is you have misjudged what matters to me and my administration and you should stop now - period."

In the statements I have read from Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, they appear to be telling the truth. Governor Cuomo's poor denial appears to back them up.

Return to the In The News page

Return to the Famous Cases page