Politics

Will the Media Revisit Cuomo Smearing His First Accuser With Leaked ‘Personnel File’?

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If the media has enough of a conscience to revisit what they did wrong in covering (or ignoring) sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo, they could start with Eric Lach of The New Yorker, who asked: “Who Ordered The Smear Campaign Against Cuomo’s First Accuser?”

Lach looked into what happened after Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, went public on Twitter back on December 13, 2020.  But she didn’t do interviews. She just tweeted. Lack wrote: “Soon after she went public, someone tried to damage Boylan’s credibility and undercut her accusations by leaking damaging information about her to the press.”

Within hours, several reporters said they had “obtained” state-government documents relating to Boylan’s job performance under Cuomo. The documents—described by the Associated Press as “personnel memos,” by the New York Post as “personnel documents,” and by the AlbanyTimes Union as “personnel records”—said that several women had complained to state officials that Boylan had “behaved in a way towards them that was harassing, belittling, and had yelled and been generally unprofessional.”

It included a racial angle. The Post story reported “three black employees went to state human resources officials accusing Boylan, who is white, of being a ‘bully’ who ‘treats them like children.’ ”  AP reported the documents they obtained said that Boylan resigned after being “counseled” about the complaints in a meeting with a top administration lawyer. Reporters who wanted to dig into Boylan’s accusations against Cuomo now had to contend with questions about Boylan. 

One lawyer who represented some Harvey Weinstein accusers said in the article this tactic could actually be illegal, and at best was “an abuse of power.” 

Lach included this critique:

John Kaehny, the executive director of the nonprofit Reinvent Albany, which advocates for transparency and accountability in New York state government, said that the press also needed to examine their complicity in the leak of the documents. “It’s the Cuomo administration’s M.O. to attempt to bully and terrorize people—they use whatever tool that is at hand,” Kaehny said. “It’s not just this particular case of attempted character assassination against Lindsey Boylan. The use and manipulation of the press is bread-and-butter political warfare. This is an area where the press really need to look themselves in the eye.”

Steve Krakauer concluded in his Fourth Watch newsletter: 

How many in the media chose to look the other way because of “personnel files” leaked to them in order to denigrate an accuser? But more importantly – how much do we not even know, because Gov. Cuomo and his allies successfully spun their friends in the media away from any negative story? 

Cuomo has been extremely friendly with the national press for years, and certainly over the last year. They have protected him every step of the way. Thanks to The New Yorker, we have one potential reason why. They have been cozy, they’ve been friends — and in one case, literal family. And you always protect the family.

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