As we’ve previously reported, the total number of accusers who have stepped forward to allege Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed them now stands at three.
One of them, Charlotte Bennett, did an exclusive interview with CBS News reporter Norah O’Donnell this week in which she detailed her alleged experiences with Cuomo during her time as an executive assistant in his administration. Bennett told O’Donnell that in her view, Cuomo was “grooming” her for sex by asking her so many questions behind closed doors about her love life, the fact that she was a rape survivor, and talking about his relationship issues.
At one point during the interview, O’Donnell asked Bennett a question about whether or not she felt all “this national attention may have emboldened” Cuomo to act the way he allegedly did with her and other women in ways that they say made them deeply uncomfortable and scared.
“Absolutely,” Bennett said. “I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways.”
Watch this segment of the interview below:
.@CBSEveningNews anchor @NorahODonnell‘s exclusive interview with former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett was a home run. She was compassionate but fact-based and fair but pressing in terms of connecting the dots. Her question on national accolades emboldening him was SPOT ON. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/xotu68bpUT
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) March 5, 2021
I want to dive a little further into the topic of the media “emboldening” Cuomo because it’s an important discussion to have in light of all that has come out over the last several weeks.
We’ve written a lot here about the mainstream media’s dereliction of duty on the nursing home scandal. While the New York Times and the Associated Press did tackle questions about Cuomo’s pandemic leadership here and there last year, the prevailing viewpoint in mainstream media circles was to gloss over any scandals that had the potential to dent his image as a magnificent leader in a time of crisis. It was also paramount at “news” outlets like CNN to make Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fall guys for Cuomo’s leadership failures.
As infuriating as it was for those of us in conservative media who were already clued into his disastrous handling of the outbreak to see Cuomo parade around on the late-night talk show circuit, take victory laps, be floated as a presidential/attorney general contender, and even win an Emmy, it had to be doubly so not just for the families of the victims of his nursing home policy but also his accusers to watch Cuomo cover himself in glory while not being held accountable by the press for his alleged actions.
The infuriating part about it is that most of what we’re hearing about now is not new news. The writing was on the wall for MONTHS about Cuomo hiding nursing home figures and the deadly costs of his nursing home order. And in December, one of his accusers – former aide Lindsey Boylan – went public with sexual harassment accusations but she didn’t go into too much detail at the time. She was all but ignored by most of the press until she gave more information two weeks ago and when others started telling their stories.
There are lessons to be learned here if journalists are willing to listen. Don’t let your political biases cloud your judgment. Be open to letting your preconceived notions about a public figure be challenged. Be willing to write critical stories of people you’ve previously admired/respected. Don’t try to be the story. Instead, write the story. Don’t let worries about “access” to powerful people keep you from digging to find out the truth.
I’m just one person, but I feel confident in promising that if more reporters took those approaches, trust in the media could begin to be restored. There isn’t a better time for the media to do some critical self-examination into their tactics and techniques than right now.