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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to New Yorkers: It Wasn't Me.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, left, presents

New York Attorney General Letitia James, left, presents the findings of an independent investigation into accusations by multiple women that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, right, sexually harassed them on August 3, 2021 in New York City.  Credit: AFP via Getty Images/DAVID DEE DELGADO

Who'd 'a thought that Andrew M. Cuomo, governor of our Great State of New York, would stoop to the "Shaggy" defense.

It wasn't me, he said, in a prerecorded statement after the bombshell, and detailed dissection of the Cuomo workplace culture, which a new report described as one of fear, intimidation and retribution.

And Cuomo said he's fixing the problem — by bolstering internal systems to deal with harassment complaints.

Which completely ignores that there already was a system in place for dealing with complaints.

Which allegedly was ignored — along with all that other behavior that state Attorney General Tish James and her investigators called "unlawful."

But hey, why not announce a cleanup after the cow has left the barn?

Here's to hoping she got away, flank unbothered.

Cuomo asked New Yorkers to read his response to each and every allegation.

To believe him, basically, because he's the victim.

Boy, please.

One of Cuomo's strengths always has been his ability to understand power, and the uses to which it could be put.

That's why New York State has new bridges; why big projects including LaGuardia Airport, Moynihan Station and East Side Access all are in the works.

But is New York ready, as Cuomo asked Tuesday, to rally 'round him for more?

Fact is, Cuomo's fingerprints are everywhere.

According to the report, that included places where a string of women who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment didn't want them.

It's been fascinating — as someone who once dealt with such investigations in a newsroom administrative job — to watch, and to listen to Cuomo justify his actions.

From the start, he made the kinds of statements investigators hear all too often.

"If I made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment, that is feeling uncomfortable," Cuomo was quoted as saying at one point.

" … I didn't do anything wrong," he said two months later, when he welcomed the inquiry from James.

But the surprise often seems to come when it's time for a sit-down with someone from human resources who explains that, yes, under state and federal law, what's under investigation could be considered harassment.

Or maybe behavior that violates business policy.

And that depending on the outcome, of course, there could be repercussions -- maybe even up to or including dismissal.

Those talks always — always — seemed to come as a surprise to the person under scrutiny.

But what happens when a workplace rallies around one person, with underlings dodging and weaving to keep someone safe?

The behavior can continue, spread, deepen and toxify.

Everything outside the circle of leadership in the workplace can change — while the center, where the issue should have been addressed, holds firm.

The James report concludes that Cuomo ran a toxic workplace, where sexual harassment was routine and normalized.

Cuomo's response to the report was predictable.

He will not go down without a fight.

That's not in Cuomo's nature.

Even as Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat and president of these United States, has joined the call for the governor to resign.

Instead, Cuomo's tossed the gauntlet to fellow Democrats who control the state Assembly, daring his own party to impeach him.

Even as Cuomo hangs on, however, a notion of New York, post-Cuomo, is taking shape.

One Long Islander, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Shirley, already has joined the 2022 governor's race.

But it would be come as no surprise if Democrats such as Laura Curran, Nassau's county executive; Steve Bellone, Suffolk's county executive; Rep. Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove and others from the region and the state were to sense blood — er, opportunity — too.

"Let the attorney general do her job," Cuomo said a few months ago, in asking for the James investigation.

"She's very competent," he said.

"That will be due process and then we'll have the facts."

What a difference a 168-page report makes.

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