Now, given Mr. Cuomo’s role as a supporter of and counselor to his brother, I am left again wondering about his relationship with truth and accountability. Has this man always cared “deeply” and “profoundly” about sexual harassment issues? Does he believe enough in accountability to step up and take some meaningful actions?
I have no grudge against Mr. Cuomo; I’m not looking for him to lose his job. Rather, this is an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the MeToo era. Accountability has been the cornerstone of the MeToo movement, leading to tangible results and even justice, consequences for harassers and the possibility of real change. Accountability has been clear in the wake of the New York State attorney general’s investigation into Governor Cuomo, which not only outlined instances of sexual harassment and mistreatment of at least 11 women by him but also identified an inner circle of advisers who helped guide him through this political and legal crisis. I call them the enablers. The official report documented the inner workings of these people, including Mr. Cuomo, and laid out their strategies and tactics to protect the governor.
Mr. Cuomo’s name shows up in an email thread with other advisers the weekend Governor Cuomo’s second accuser, Charlotte Bennett, came forward. The attorney general’s report says that he was part of “ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly” and that he appeared to counsel the governor “to express contrition.” The Washington Post also reported that Mr. Cuomo urged his brother to take a defiant position early in the scandal and not resign. We all know that Mr. Cuomo was being consulted by his brother; what has never come to light, and what Mr. Cuomo has not been held to account for, is the full scope of the advice he gave his brother and whether his advice and his role in helping shape the defense of a sitting governor (one who was being investigated by Mr. Cuomo’s own network) were in keeping with CNN’s standards and values. (In May, Mr. Cuomo apologized for taking part in strategy calls with the governor and his staff, calling it “a mistake.” CNN called those conversations “inappropriate.”)
After Governor Cuomo resigned, it didn’t surprise me that attention turned to the enablers. A number of them have been fired or forced to step down from their high-powered jobs. It did surprise me to learn that Roberta Kaplan, the chairwoman of Time’s Up, a nonprofit created at the start of the MeToo movement to fight sexual harassment, was involved in efforts to defend the governor. She quickly resigned, followed by the group’s president and chief executive, Tina Tchen.
Finally, during the Labor Day weekend, as Mr. Cuomo was walking around in his “Truth” T-shirt, the entire 71-person Global Leadership Board of Time’s Up was dissolved, including Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Janelle Monáe, Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, Laura Dern, America Ferrera, Kerry Washington, Tarana Burke, Alyssa Milano, Gretchen Carlson and Amy Schumer. The members were reportedly notified Sept. 5 via email from a co-founder of Time’s Up, informing them, “There is no need for your individual resignations, as the group no longer exists.” I cannot recall any organization ever acting so swiftly and comprehensively to hold itself accountable after top leaders veered from their founding mission.
While the fallout has continued across Governor Cuomo’s circle of advisers — two former staff members resigned from outside jobs, and the president of the Human Rights Campaign was summarily fired — Mr. Cuomo and CNN seem to have moved on. As recently as last month, he was suggesting that he did not cross a line in aiding Governor Cuomo, telling his CNN viewers, “I’m not an adviser. I am a brother.” A brother calls to privately console you after hours. An adviser is looped in on staff emails and crisis conference calls, gives talking points and helps shape the narrative.