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Cuomo's Goodbye: Taking Credit for Marriage, Tainting LGBTQ+ Leaders

Cuomo
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The soon-to-be ex-governor takes many people, along with his dignity, down with him.

I've lived in New York City for 28 years, and during that time we have had five governors, starting with Gov. Mario Cuomo. Once, when I was standing on the corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, the police were holding people off the street, as they normally and frequently do, when a motorcade went by.

As I stood there waiting, I glanced to my right, and lo and behold, it was Mario Cuomo, and at that moment, the motorcade drove by carrying his successor, Gov. George Pataki. "That used to be you," I said to former Gov. Cuomo. He laughed and said, "Yes, that used to be me."

We won't be seeing cops halt pedestrian traffic for his son's motorcade to go by. Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, finally, after what feels like a tidal wave of accusations, investigations, and revelations. Why would someone hang on with so much overwhelming evidence against him, so many fingers pointing at him, and so many people digging into him?

Everyone but the pope has called for Cuomo to step down. When the state's attorney general released the report about the investigation into sexual harassment by the soon-to-be former governor, the evidence was vast. And when that report became public, Cuomo released a tone-deaf video denying that he ever did anything wrong, and then a laughable addition to that video showing him kissing every man and woman in public life -- except the pope.

That video was cringeworthy, and his pathetic defense of himself deplorable. How did anyone in their right mind counsel him that those videos were the right things to do?

As it turns out, he had a plethora of people advising him, most notably -- and embarrassingly -- and ironically, the now-former cochair of Time's Up, Roberta Kaplan (she resigned as a result of her involvement with Cuomo), and the president of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David. It's as if Cuomo was giving validity to his response to the accusations by engaging people who represented the very antithesis of the allegations against him.

Kaplan and David have done so much for women's rights, human rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Did it even dawn on the governor about what kind of predicament he was putting these people in? And not making any excuses, but if Gov. Andrew Cuomo in all of his power calls on you to help him, knowing that you need his help for your causes, how do you react?

We know that Cuomo has done a lot for LGBTQ+ rights; however, his ex, lifestyle guru Sandra Lee, apparently isn't pleased with the fact that he's hogging the credit for same-sex marriage. She took umbrage when he said during his exit speech, "Just think about what we did. We passed marriage equality, creating a new civil right, legalized love for the LGBTQ community and we generated a force for change that swept the nation."

According to a New York Post story, a friend of Lee's is quoted as saying, "Sandra was the one to fight for same-sex marriage, and she had to keep hounding Andrew to do it. It was all Sandra, and for Andrew to take credit is so crass. What a jerk." Apparently, she was inspired by her youngest brother, Johnny, who is gay.

That wasn't the only thing wrong with his resignation speech, if you want to call it that. If anyone needs an example of a completely self-involved appearance incredibly denying deniability in front of a camera, then his diatribe will suit that purpose for students of politics for generations to come.

Basically, he blamed his behavior, or explained that his behavior was OK "back in the day," and I'm paraphrasing here. He actually said, "I have done it all my life. It's who I have been since I can remember. In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate -- and I should have. No excuses." Um, that's an excuse hidden in a no excuse hidden behind a "cultural shift" and lines being "redrawn."

You see, if the culture didn't "shift," then it would be OK for him to run his fingers along a female state trooper's back. Or cup the breast of and lip-kiss his executive assistants. He cited his interaction with the state trooper after talking about the "cultural shift." But "back in the day" Cuomo's bodyguards would have been all men, since women in the force were scarce. Is he saying he would have gently touched the spines of his male protectors?

The direction of the speech reminded me of Donald Trump's response to the Access Hollywood tape when he talked about grabbing female genitalia. "Locker-room talk," Trump said. As Cuomo was speaking, I could envision him and Trump, towels draped around their waists, in a country club locker room, "back in the day," talking about their sexual exploits with the women who crossed their paths, laughing about it, and trying to out-macho each other about who is the bigger philanderer.

This is New York, and there are an infinite number of misogynist jerks who still think it's OK to pull in their female underlings, cultural shift be damned. It's all about ego. After all, what woman could deny the advances of an uber-rich titan of finance, the CEO of a high-valued technology company, or a third-term governor so caught up in his power and himself? These men lose all sense of themselves, decorum, and break the law because they think their money, and power -- as Henry Kissinger famously said -- is an aphrodisiac.

Cuomo was once famously married to a Kennedy, and the Kennedy men were famous for their wandering eyes "back in the day" when people turned the other way, and women, through no fault of their own, turned the other cheek. Cuomo brought up his daughters during his sojourn soliloquy, and I thought that was a very unfair and gratuitous thing to do.

It's like he did with Kaplan and David. He put his daughters on the spot and boxed them in a corner, and when he spoke about them, it wasn't about them per se, it was all about him. Through no fault of their own, Cuomo has thrust his daughters into his spotlight. Did he even begin to think how they would try and wrestle out of explaining his moral turpitude when questioned? His daughters, Kaplan, and David are all left to their own devices. Just like the women he allegedly harassed.

Now there'll be a woman, Kathy Hochul, leading the state of New York for the first time ever, and that could not be more fitting. We haven't heard the last from Cuomo, though. There are criminal investigations and impeachment plans that remain alive and moving forward. The record needs to be set straight so that Cuomo's wildly selfish antiquated excuse isn't the last word.

And now that a new governor will soon take the helm, if I get stopped by the police on a New York City corner next to Andrew in the near future, while Gov. Hochul drives by, I might just turn to Mario's son and sarcastically say, "That used to be you 'back in the day.'"

John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.