The media establishment, which once adored Andrew Cuomo, is telling him it’s time to go.
From major news organizations to liberal commentators, there is a remarkable unanimity of opinion that the governor must resign — a solidarity that mirrored last year’s consensus that Cuomo was a hero of the pandemic.
In covering his decade running New York, journalists often described him as more-feared-than revered. He was a brawler, a tough guy from Queens, who knocked heads to get things done. If there was criticism of Cuomo, it was that he wasn’t liberal enough, since he combined a left-wing approach to such issues as guns and gay marriage with a more business-friendly approach to the economy.
Now that has changed dramatically.
The New York Times, which kept endorsing Cuomo, wants him out: “Regardless of what may happen in a court of law, the governor has only one conscionable option left: He should resign … If Mr. Cuomo cares for the well-being of the state and its citizens as much as he has said he does over the years, he needs to do the right thing and step down.”
The Washington Post wants him out: “If there was any doubt about Mr. Cuomo’s fitness to continue in office, it was removed with the details of his treatment of women and the toxic culture of the governor’s executive chamber that enabled the harassment to occur. It is dispiriting to read in the report how the governor’s staff, acting either out of loyalty or fear, cosseted the governor and enabled his behavior.”
The 12 Gannett newspapers in the state ran an editorial urging Cuomo to quit.
Even liberal commentators who once sung Cuomo’s praises have adopted a different tune.
Post columnist Ruth Marcus: “That Cuomo could have behaved so abusively toward so many for so long — and his denials to the contrary were properly deemed unconvincing by the investigators — is nothing short of astonishing. What was tolerated, if not tolerable, in years and decades past is intolerable in 2021. Cuomo is done, whether he recognizes it or not.”
HuffPost: “The Walls are Closing In.”
Salon: “It’s Time to Kick Cuomo to the Curb.”
Talking Points Memo: “Cuomo wants you to know he’s creepy around everyone.”
Now a politician can survive the combined opposition of the press, as Republicans have learned. But Cuomo’s support in his own party has collapsed. President Biden, an old friend, isn’t the only one telling him to step down. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and much of the Democratic congressional delegation have jumped on the resignation bandwagon, as have the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. The Cuomo brand is now so toxic, given the chilling details in the investigative report, that it’s untenable for Democrats to support him — or even stay silent. And two district attorneys are opening criminal inquiries.
To some extent, this is payback for the bare-knuckled way the governor treated opponents and allies alike to get what he wanted. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio can hardly contain his glee as his calls on his longtime nemesis to hit the road.
More importantly, the Democrats who control the state Assembly are moving forward with an impeachment probe — and may well have the votes.
There was probably nothing Cuomo could have said Tuesday to mitigate the damage. But I believe he made things worse with a video defense that often seemed tone-deaf.
By raising questions about “politics and bias,” about “trial by newspaper,” he seemed to be challenging the accusers’ credibility. By saying he likes to hug and kiss people — cue the slideshow — he was saying the women he made uncomfortable can’t tell the difference. By saying he was trying to comfort Charlotte Bennett as a sexual assault survivor, he denied what was an obvious come-on — and she told CBS News that Cuomo is out of touch with reality and clearly was trying to sleep with her.
Now that there’s a journalistic consensus, the media face some uncomfortable questions of their own. How could they have treated Cuomo as a political superstar, even after questions about nursing home deaths arose, only to act appalled when his darker side emerged? Why weren’t most organizations quicker to cover the initial harassment allegations against Cuomo? That now looks like a spectacular misjudgment that requires the profession’s least favorite exercise: self-examination.