ALBANY — Republican nominee for governor Marc Molinaro on Thursday blamed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for failing to stop and then failing to appropriately handle sexual harassment allegations by some of his top staff.
“It’s the kind of arrogance that sends a chilling, chilling effect on women, whether they are inside state government or outside of state government,” said Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive.
He referred to three specific cases over the past year: Cuomo’s Western New York economic development staffer, Sam Hoyt, who resigned amid claims he had an affair with a 19-year-old intern years after he quit the Assembly during a separate sexual harassment investigation; a woman who filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was targeted for retaliation after she accused a male co-worker of sexual harassment, and a female attorney who filed a federal suit claiming she was subjected to a frat boy culture.
All three cases were referred to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, said Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer. In addition, she said one of the women’s cases also was referred to the state Inspector General’s Office, which resulted in the male worker being fired.
“The governor has fought for and delivered critical legislation to protect the rights of women everywhere — from nation-leading reforms to combat sexual harassment in the workplace to ending the horrific, exploitive practice of sextortion to the landmark enough is enough law and taking firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers,” Fashouer said. “The governor will continue to take aggressive action to advance the rights and safety of women and girls.”
She referred to sexual harassment legislation passed earlier this year. But that, too, has been criticized by several female lawmakers because Cuomo negotiated the bill behind closed doors and only with male legislative leaders.
Cuomo has made combating sexual harassment a major issue in his current and 2014 campaigns. As part of the effort, he created the Women’s Equality Party, which has endorsed him each year.
Cuomo’s likely Democratic primary opponent, Working Families Party nominee Cynthia Nixon, said she sees a pattern of Cuomo ignoring reports of sexual harassment by top staff and allies.
“In many of these cases, Governor Cuomo even promoted men who he knew had a history of misconduct, like Sam Hoyt,” Nixon said. “In an election year when women are rising up against these predators and their allies, the governor is trying to protect himself by running these blatantly false ads. New York can do much better than re-electing a hypocritical governor.”
Molinaro said the state should adopt his policy of zero tolerance in Dutchess County.
“In my county, we embrace the concept of ‘start by believing,’ ” Molinaro said. “We start by believing them, to access truth, and we don’t dismiss their courage for coming forward.”