Two women who helped found the anti-harassment group Time’s Up during the height of the #MeToo Movement helped New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office in drafting a letter that smeared one of his accusers and "impugned her credibility," the state attorney general said in her bombshell report Tuesday.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is facing widespread calls to resign or be removed from office after state Attorney General Letitia James concluded her monthslong investigation Tuesday, saying he sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former state employees, from 2013 to 2020 in violation of state and federal law.
In her 165-page report, James said Cuomo and a group of advisers drafted a letter in December 2020 in response to allegations by the governor’s first accuser, former aide Lindsey Boylan, who said he sexually harassed her and created a toxic work environment.
"The letter denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan’s allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated (including with theories about connections with supporters of President Trump and a politician with an alleged interest in running for Governor)," James said in her report.
Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, testified that the governor first drafted the letter by hand, though the governor denied having any memory of writing it and only said he participated in the drafting process.
According to James, DeRosa testified that she had reservations about the letter and thought it would backfire, so Cuomo instructed her to seek further input from attorney Roberta Kaplan, who co-founded the Time’s Up legal defense fund with CEO Tina Tchen. Kaplan also serves as legal counsel for DeRosa.
"According to Ms. DeRosa, Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Times Up [Tchen], and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine," James said in her report.
"Ms. DeRosa reported back to the Governor that Ms. Kaplan and the head of Times Up thought the letter was okay with some changes, as did [Cuomo ally Steve] Cohen, but everyone else thought it was a bad idea."
James' report said the letter was never made public after Cuomo's team failed to convince anyone to sign it.
"Several people whom the Governor’s advisors asked to sign the letter were uncomfortable with what it said about Ms. Boylan" and some even said it amounted to victim-shaming and retaliation, the report said.
When speaking about the letter in his testimony, Cuomo compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, saying the former president would write a response to an article that infuriated him and then throw it out, and that "like Lincoln, the writing process was cathartic for him," the report said.
Time’s Up responded to the development about its founders in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
"Before any allegations were made against Governor Cuomo, in 2019, Time’s Up worked with his administration to pass the Time’s Up/NY Safety Agenda. In December 2020, Tina was asked to give her perspective on a public response to Ms. Boylan’s allegations," a spokesperson said.
"Although Tina made no recommendations as to what he should do, she shared the stance Time’s Up has always taken in these matters," the spokesperson continued. "She was clear that any response coming from the Governor’s office addressing the allegations would be insufficient and unacceptable if it did not acknowledge the experiences of the women who came forward, and that it should in no way shame or discredit the women."