Aides to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo called former employees in the days after he was first accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, seeking information about the accuser in what some considered an attempt at intimidation, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The calls came after months of no contact between the former aides and Cuomo’s office, the Journal said, and one of the aides said they were encouraged to disclose damaging information to reporters about the accuser, Manhattan Borough president candidate Lindsey Boylan. Boylan worked as an economic adviser in the Cuomo administration between 2015 and 2018.
The calls were initiated by both officials in the current administration and former aides, according to the recipients, all at the behest of Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, those familiar with the effort said.
''I felt intimidated, and I felt bewildered,'' said Ana Liss, a former Cuomo aide who received one of the calls and who five days ago also accused the governor of ''inappropriate conduct.''
Liss, who hasn’t worked for the Cuomo administration in more than five years and couldn’t remember the last contact she had with someone there, said she was called by Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo on Dec. 21. It was eight days after Boylan accused Cuomo in a Twitter post of sexually harassing her.
''After Ms. Boylan’s tweets in December, she, and her lawyers and members of the press began reaching out to former members of the Chamber, many of whom never worked with her,'' Azzopardi said in a statement to the Journal. ''Those former members of the Chamber called to let various staff people know and convey that they were upset by the outreach. As a result, we proactively reached out to some former colleagues to check in and make sure they had a heads up.''
Azzopardi said the calls weren’t coordinated — by DeRosa or anyone else.
''There was no directed effort,'' he said. ''This outreach happened organically when everyone’s phone started to blow up.''
He added that no one was intimidated.
Five women have publicly accused Cuomo of inappropriate conduct and a sixth has made allegations anonymously. The latest incident reportedly included an accusation that Cuomo groped a much younger woman at the governor’s mansion after she was summoned to help him with his cell phone.
Eighty-five New York lawmakers have called for the resignation or impeachment of Cuomo, who also is facing accusations his administration went to significant lengths to disguise the number of COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes, after he forbade the facilities from barring COVID-19 patients from returning after being treated at hospitals and while they were still infectious.
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