New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the latest in a long line of political figures accused of harassment or sexual assault. Almost all were called upon to resign, and some gave in, while others firmly refused to resign.
What is the difference between those who stay in power and those who do not? Party affiliation is one of them: in recent years, Democratic leaders have often abandoned party members accused of harassment or assault, often leading them – but not always – to resign and be replaced by other Democrats. Republicans, who did not always come under the same pressure from party leaders, generally stood up and stayed in office.
This makes Cuomo’s case even more unusual: he made it clear that he has no intention of opting out voluntarily. But since former President Bill Clinton, there has not been such a thorough and public investigation of a high profile politician for allegations of sexual misconduct. “This whole discussion is not just based on news reports, but very careful and in-depth legal investigation and analysis,” said Emily Martin, vice president of the National Center for Women’s Law. “Some politicians have exploited that kind of inherent uncertainty. They’ve learned the lesson that if you don’t give up, no one will blame you.”
This time it might be different. If Cuomo doesn’t resign, he could be impeached by the state legislature.
The list of politicians accused of harassment or sexual assault is too long for an article, but here is a look at some more recent allegations in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
More than 20 women have publicly accused the former president of harassment or sexual assault. Weeks before the 2016 election, a 2005 recording surfaced of Trump bragging in vulgar terms of kissing and grabbing women without their consent. The Republican admitted his comments at the time, saying in a video: “I said that, I was wrong and I apologize.” But he also downplayed the importance of the conversation as a “locker room discussion” and then questioned the authenticity of the recording without argument.
Despite widespread outrage from Democrats and women’s groups, Trump was not punished at the polls for his comments – more voters voted for him rather than Hillary Clinton. Later, in 2019, writer E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a department store in New York City. He denied the charge and she sued him for libel, in which case he took the very unusual legal step of going to the Justice Department to defend him.
In 2017, comedian and sports presenter Leeann Tweeden accused Franken, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, of forcibly kissing her during rehearsal and taking her for a photo while she slept on a comedy tour. in the Middle East in 2006. Franken apologized but said he had a different memory of that time. “I don’t know what I had in mind when I took this photo, and it doesn’t matter,” he wrote in a statement. “There’s no excuse. I’m looking at it today and I feel disgusted with myself. It’s not funny. It’s totally inappropriate.” Several weeks later, amid requests to resign, Franken resigned.
In late 2017, four women, and then another, said Roy S. Moore, then Republican candidate for the Senate from Alabama, made sexual advances to them when they were teenagers and over 30 years old. One woman accused Moore of forcing her to have sex when she was 14, and several accused him of sexual assault.
Many Republican politicians, including Senator Mitch McConnell, then Senate Majority Leader at the time, urged Moore to drop out of the race, but he denied all the allegations and said they were part of a conspiracy to prevent his election. Trump backed Moore about a week before the election, but lost to Doug Jones, who became the first Democrat since 1992 to win a seat in the Alabama Senate.
Shortly after Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, three women accused him of sexual assault or misconduct. One of them, Christine Blasey Ford, said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when she was around 15 at a party in a Maryland suburb in the early 1980s. During testimony hours Before the Senate Justice Committee, Blasey Ford said she feared Kavanaugh would accidentally rape and kill her during the alleged attack. Kavanaugh “unequivocally and categorically” denied the allegation and was upheld in court by one of the smallest margins in US history.
Eric T. Schneiderman, former New York state attorney general, resigned in 2018, hours after New Yorker magazine reported four women accused him of physically assaulting them. Two of them said they were repeatedly strangled and beaten by Schneiderman, a Democrat. Although he denied the allegations, several party leaders, including Cuomo, called for his resignation.
“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroborations exposed in the article, I don’t think it’s possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general,” Cuomo said. at the time.
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves