On December 12, 2020, Lindsey Boylan — a former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo — took to Twitter to accuse the New York governor of sexual harassment. She did so in a series of tweets, which you can see below.
Boylan began detailing her alleged abuse at the hands of the governor when a report came out claiming that President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris were eyeing Cuomo for a position as the new attorney general.
While she went into detail about the nature of her alleged abuse during her tenure with Governor Cuomo, she also made clear that she has no intentions of talking to the press about her alleged ordeal.
Boylan, a Columbia University graduate, worked for Andrew Cuomo from 2015 to 2018. According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Boylan was forced to resign from her position after allegations of behavior that was “harassing, belittling, and had yelled and been generally unprofessional.”
A few days after she resigned, Boylan wrote to Alphonso David, Cuomo’s top attorney, to tell him that she’d reconsidered her resignation, but David convinced her not to return.
Whether the memo was leaked by Cuomo’s office — which is likely, given that he’s steadfastly denied the accusations, be it for his political purposes or otherwise — is a moot point, but it does go to illustrate that Boylan is not the “perfect victim.”
But then again, isn’t the point of the #MeToo movement to show that not only does the “perfect victim” not exist, but that women should be believed regardless of their political affiliation, and no matter whom they’re accusing of sexual harassment or assault?
It didn’t take long for critics to launch against Lindsey Boylan — pointing out that Boylan only “came forward” with her story when her ex-boss was announced as a potential candidate for attorney general, and not in 2018 when she first resigned from the office.
Some critics also suggested that her motives were political in nature, given that she’s running for Manhattan Borough President, and some even went so far as to suggest that incumbent President Donald Trump is behind the “hit.”
The backlash is, unfortunately, unsurprising. Boylan is not only an imperfect victim, but she’s going after the golden boy of the Democratic party.
One would be hard-pressed to find someone willing to criticize Andrew Cuomo, especially in the wake of his COVID-19 response (which many deemed effective), without getting some sort of heat for the salvo.
But the real issue here is not one rooted in politics — it has little, if any, basis in the rancor between the Democrats and the Republicans (Boylan herself is a registered Democrat).
The real issue is two-fold: the flaws in the #MeToo movement, and the dangers of creating a cult of personality around a politician regardless of the politician’s political stripe.
The crux of the #MeToo movement allegedly revolves around “believing all women.” But the actual mantra of the #MeToo movement is “believe women” — and the “all” qualifier has become a bit of a trap on both sides of the political aisle.
Writing for The Atlantic, Helen Lewis correctly points out that the “believe women” or “believe all women” phrases are both ineffective.
“The mantra began as an attempt to redress the poor treatment of those who come forward over abuse, and the feminists who adopted it had good intentions, but its catchiness disguised its weakness: The phrase is too reductive, too essentialist, too open to misinterpretation. Defending its precise meaning has taken up energy better spent talking about the structural changes that would make it obsolete, and it has become a stick with which to beat activists and politicians who care about the subject,” she said.
Is it possible that Andrew Cuomo did, indeed, commit sexual harassment and/or assault against Lindsey Boylan and other women? Sure. And it’s dangerous to assume that his political affiliation precludes him from being a predator.
To the contrary: the initial purpose of the #MeToo movement was to demonstrate that sexual harassment, and sexual assault, are so engrained into American society that women simply do not feel safe anywhere, whether it’s at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago or Andrew Cuomo’s office.
And while false allegations do, indeed, happen, they’re statistically rare. In other words, it’s statistically unlikely that Lindsey Boylan is lying, especially given the backlash she’s already facing by merely mentioning what she went through.
Barring hardcore evidence that, for example, she is lying (proof of payment from the Trump campaign, for example, would go a long way in proving that this was a political hit job), the default setting is to believe her.
It should also be made clear that not only is Boylan not willing to speak to journalists about her alleged ordeal, but she’s not asking any court — civil or criminal — for any relief. She’s made the statements, and you can choose to believe them or not — which makes them more, not less, believable.
But in so believing Boylan’s accusations against Andrew Cuomo, we also have to acknowledge that due process is also an integral part of the American judicial process, and one shouldn’t be quick to immediately “cancel” any man that’s accused, whether that man is a liberal favorite like Andrew Cuomo or a conservative champion like Brett Kavanaugh.
If we believe Boylan’s accusations enough to hold them up to scrutiny, we have to allow the process to play out appropriately and take appropriate action (or not), lest we have another Al Franken situation on our hands.
And then there’s the issue of the cult of personality that has risen to extreme measures in American politics. Donald Trump, Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Mitch McConnell — the list goes on of all the politicians whose cult of personality is so great that their followers refuse to see them as anything less than perfect.
Andrew Cuomo Is Already Guilty In The Court Of Public Opinion
Any criticism, or perceived slight, against these golden calves is viewed as everything from sedition to an assault on democracy — when, in reality, it’s all part of the democratic process that calls upon us, the citizenry, to question these leaders at all times, no matter how in line with our values we believe them to be.
The bottom line is that, yes, we should believe Lindsey Boylan and all women, regardless of how “reductive” that tagline is, and regardless of who the woman in question is accusing.
We should, however, also demand that all the accused men be subjected to the same due process of law, regardless of their political affiliation.