‘Let’s play strip poker’: Former aide alleges Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed her on private jet

‘His inappropriate behaviour toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,’ Lindsey Boylan writes

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Wednesday 24 February 2021 21:00 GMT
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A former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has accused the Democratic lawmaker of sexual harassment in an essay, alleging one incident involved him asking for them to play strip poker on his private jet. Representatives for Mr Cuomo have denied all allegations against him. 

Lindsey Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, said she was told by staff members that Mr Cuomo had a "crush" on her. This crush resulted in the governor allegedly seeking her out for specific tasks and even having aides arrange private meetings with her.

"Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected," she wrote.

"His inappropriate behaviour toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences," her essay continued.

Screenshots from emails between Mr Cuomo's staff members, as well as texts Ms Boylan sent to her mother, were included in the essay to show instances she felt harassed by the governor.

"I had complained to friends that the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs," she wrote. "His senior staff began keeping tabs on my whereabouts."

One text conversation between herself and her mother involved Ms Boylan claiming that Mr Cuomo was inquiring to staff members why she wasn’t at a specific event.

"Any reason he would need you there?" her mother asked. To this, Ms Boylan responded: "There is no reason. He was asking [because] he wants to see me ... He has a crush on me."

Allegations from Ms Boylan included one instance where the governor reportedly kissed her on the lips.

Another interaction involved Mr Cuomo allegedly suggesting they play strip poker while travelling "from an October 2017 event in Western New York on his taxpayer-funded jet." Two other people, a state trooper and press aide, were also said to be on the plane when the governor made the suggestion, according to Ms Boylan.

"As we said before, Ms Boylan's claims of inappropriate behaviour are quite simply false," Caitlin Girouard, Mr Cuomo's press secretary, said in a statement to The Independent.

The statement included the office denying Ms Boylan ever was on a flight with only Mr Cuomo, a press aide, and a state trooper – with the office providing file logs of flights from October 2017 and the passengers who were on those flights.

John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever and Abbey Fashouer Collins were all on flights with Ms Boylan then, the press secretary said, and they have all denied the “strip poker” conversation took place.

"We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen," they said in a statement.

Ms Boylan first alleged she was sexually harassed by the governor in December 2020 in a tweet. At the time, she wrote that Mr Cuomo "sexually harassed me for years." When reached by reporters, though, Ms Boylan declined to share her story.

The governor was asked about the accusations at the time during a press briefing, and he denied all claims.

"I fought for and I believe a woman has the right to come forward and express her opinion and express issues and concerns that she has," Mr Cuomo said. "But it's just not true."

Ms Boylan said she was inspired to speak out about her alleged interaction with the governor because "no woman should feel forced to hide their experiences of workplace intimidation, harassment and humiliation – not by the Governor or anyone else."

"I was proud to work in the Cuomo Administration. For so long I had looked up to the Governor. But his abusive behaviour needs to stop," she added.

The former aide worked for Mr Cuomo from 2015 until she resigned from her post in September 2018. Records obtained by the New York Daily News found that two officials requested in September 2018 that Ms Boylan be "removed" from her post after she requested the resignation of another official without authorisation and ordered around staff members who did not report to her.

The report also alleged Ms Boylan mistreated three African-American staff members, interacting with them like they were "children".

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