One of the first women to allege that disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed them says that Amber Heard’s first interview with Savannah Guthrie proves why women “choose not to talk” to the Today host.
Former aide Lindsey Boylan, who was the first of at least 11 women between December 2020 and April 2021 to step forward and level accusations of sexual harassment and claims of inappropriate behaviour against the New York governor, shared a clip of the first interview Ms Heard has conducted since losing a multi-million-dollar defamation case against her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
In the clip, the NBC host grills Ms Heard about her understanding of free speech, noting at one point during the interview that “the First Amendment protects speech” but it doesn’t “protect lies that amount to defamation”.
Mr Depp, who won his defamation case against his ex-wife, had argued throughout the trial’s proceedings that Ms Heard’s 2018 opinion piece penned in The Washington Post where she described herself as being a “public figure representing domestic abuse” had defamed him. Though Ms Heard never explicitly named her ex-husband in the op-ed, the allegations – which he vehemently denied – led him to lose out on lucrative movie roles, he claimed.
In response to Ms Guthrie, Ms Heard elaborated on her understanding of free speech and emphasised that she knows that the First Amendment doesn’t protect people from spreading false information, like shouting “fire” in a theatre, she noted.
“My understanding of what that means is not just freedom to speak, it’s a freedom to speak truth to power,” she said, adding “that’s all I spoke. I spoke it to power, and I paid the price.”
On Tuesday, after clips for the interview, scheduled to air on Friday 17 June at 8pm ET, were dropped, Ms Boylan tweeted: “This clip sucks. @SavannahGuthrie, no wonder many women choose not to talk to you. Myself included.”
Ms Boylan first spoke up about her allegations of sexual harassment while working with Mr Cuomo in a Twitter thread she posted on her personal account on 13 December 2020 and then resurfaced those allegations in a more detailed essay published on the blogging site Medium in February 2021.
The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow later followed up with the former aide, in what would be her first extensive interview since airing allegations about the reportedly inappropriate work environment.
Shortly after that first Twitter thread, aides for the governor reportedly began working to counter Ms Boylan’s allegations, efforts that were later characterised by attorneys investigating the governor’s conduct in the state office as “unlawful retaliation”.
The former aide in the New York governor’s office detailed in an extensive interview with The Independent last fall how “shocking” it was for her when Mr Cuomo’s chief of staff attempted to send Ms Boylan’s personnel file to two journalists in an effort to discredit her reputation in light of the allegations, although the chief of staff herself denied having done this.
“With respect to legal questions relating to how a complaint should be handled, or whether personnel records could be provided to the public, Ms DeRosa consulted with and relied upon the advice of experienced counsel,” an attorney for Mr Cuomo’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, told The Independent last fall.
Ms De Rosa resigned on 9 August 2021.
“The shocking thing is that this was all out in the open,” Ms Boylan told The Independent. “How much power and intimidation did Cuomo have to manifest in order for no one to say ‘no’ to smearing me?”
The fallout from Ms Boylan first levelling those allegations against the governor in December 2020, however, led to more women to come forward with their own accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
Shortly after a second woman, Charlotte Bennett, another former aide who accused Mr Cuomo of misconduct, came forward, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James opened an investigation into the allegations.
The 168-page enquiry, which was released just a week before Mr Cuomo would announce his resignation from office and end his 10-year run as governor, corroborated a number of the allegations lodged against him.
In summary, the report read: “The Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”
In his 21-minute resignation speech, Mr Cuomo conceded that he’d made “mistakes” while in office, but insisted then, as he continues to do, that he never touched anyone inappropriately.
In the months since his resignation, five criminal cases were opened and closed into allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
As recently as last March, the governor continued to use these dropped charges as proof that he didn’t break any laws.
“Now they did a report that said there were 11 cases against me,” he said during his first public speech since his resignation, delivered at a Brooklyn church in March. “Five District Attorneys have investigated the report of the much publicised 11 violations of law,” he said, emphasising that “zero” had amounted in any legal proceedings.
“Why? Because there is a difference between an individual’s opinion as to what they believe is offensive behaviour and a legal violation,” the 64-year-old said, while rumours continue to swirl that these appearances could be part of the governor’s attempt at a political comeback.
For Ms Heard’s part, she and her attorneys have said that she intends to appeal the Fairfax court verdict reached earlier this month.
Mr Depp’s attorneys, however, have come out in recent interviews to state that should the Aquaman actor drop her appeal, then their client would forgo the $8.35m in damages that she currently owes after losing the weeks-long trial against her ex-husband.
The Independent has reached out to NBC to ask Ms Guthrie for comment.
This article was amended on 8 July 2022 to include Ms DeRosa’s denial that she attempted to send a personnel file to the two journalists.
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