Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced his resignation on Tuesday with a speech that left viewers immersed in a great cloud of octopus ink that covered his retreat.
He exited with considerable talk of being “New York smart” and “New York tough,” terms he uses in ways that some linguistic literalists may well find confusing. Fortunately, as someone with New York roots, I think I can help. Here’s what the soon-to-be former governor was really saying.
Yes, New Yorkers are right to be outraged at the headlines that he had sexually harassed 11 women — but it’s important for them to realize that the headlines aren’t true.
Still, Cuomo takes full responsibility for his actions, despite the fact that those actions were innocently meant and have been completely misunderstood. Why, he even wants to thank the 11 women who came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, even though they misconstrued his warm and affectionate — but completely non-sexual — conduct and banter. He understands that their confusion about his natural gregariousness led them to find something offensive about his benignly intended behavior.
That said, even though in his own mind he never crossed the line with anyone, Cuomo knows the lines have changed in ways that he didn’t previously appreciate. So though there’s no credible factual basis to say it ever happened with him, it may be true that a boss should no longer rub a female employee’s behind in a platonic way or even innocently slip his hand inside her blouse to ensure she is fitted with a comfortable bra during long hours of tireless public service like those he and his team were so honored to perform for the great state of New York.
Although he didn’t do anything wrong, this controversy is serious enough that Cuomo thinks there’s a smart and necessary discussion to be had about changing standards of appropriate male conduct. If people were willing to embark on such a thoughtful exercise, they’d quickly come to put all these allegations about him in proper perspective.
But being New York smart means realizing you can’t have a discussion like that in times like these, in the midst of a media frenzy being driven by people with political agendas, and this of course is all politically driven. And so, to save New Yorkers from the distraction of having all this play out in public, the governor will do the right thing for the state he loves and resign — even though he really did nothing particularly wrong.
The one thing he really regrets is that people are confused about what happened with the female state trooper who mistakenly thought he got all handsy with her.
No, no, no, no, no. His security detail opens doorways and guards doors for him, and to thank them he gives them little touches and pats and the like. It’s his way of saying, “I see you, I appreciate you, and I thank you.” But not, I want to feel you up. Never that.
So, to sum up, unfair as it all is, Cuomo is resigning. Now, being New York smart means understanding that bragging about your achievements at a time like this is tricky, particularly if one of your justifications for resigning is to spare your state a protracted impeachment battle because “it’s not about me, it’s about we.”
Still, it’s vitally important to realize all the truly great things the state of New York has accomplished in the last decade or so. To be even more precise, since Jan. 1, 2011, when a certain someone took office. And the particularly great things it did during the COVID crisis.
Still confused? Well, fortunately, Cuomo doesn’t leave office for 14 days, so here’s my bet. He’ll use the next two weeks to make clear exactly what he really means there.