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As Democrats Call For Cuomo To Resign, What Happened to The Right To A Fair Trial, In The Era Of The False Narrative?

It's not about politics- it's about restoring a shared standard for truth.

Er-nay, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This post As Democrats Call For Cuomo To Resign, What Happened to The Right To A Fair Trial, In The Era Of The False Narrative?  has been selected as a Best of Tremr post:

When Trump tried to extort Zelensky, all he wanted was for Zelensky to announce a new investigation into the Biden’s. Trump knew that only an accusation is needed for a conviction in the court of public opinion.

At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the story about Governor Cuomo but it progressed like an incessant drumbeat. Governor Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment. Governor Cuomo has six accusers! Democrats call for Cuomo to resign! Sexual harassment, sexual harassment, sexual harassment.

Before investigating it myself. the buzz led me to assume, that there must be serious allegations of substance behind such an uproar.

I read the blog post that started the chant, published on Medium. There I found there was no there, there. The two most significant claims of harassment by the accuser who started it all are (1) that while sitting in close quarters on a tax-payer funded plane, the Governor said “Do you want to play strip poker?” and (2) the Governor kissed her on the lips- he said, she said, maybe true, maybe not, maybe an exaggeration.

There is no further development in the strip-poker conversation, leading to the likelihood that it was an off-color joke, not the best thing to say, but being the entirety of the reported episode, it sounds like it was just a stupid joke.

But claims the author, it made her “feel uncomfortable” and thereafter she milked her feelings by padding her story with hearsay and innuendo, but no serious charges of sexual harassment or even inappropriate touching.

Another of Cuomo’s accusers was shocked when he pulled her into a dance move and posed for the cameras. It made her feel very uncomfortable and so she filed her claim in the media, the choice of authority, of all the accusers, to date.

The accuser stories all fit the same mold. The Governor made the accusers “feel uncomfortable’. something everyone feels at one time or another, for all kinds of reasons. I wondered how this plays in the black community where the social issues are actually life-threatening, and infinitely more offensive than hugging someone and touching them on the back in a pose for the camera when celebrating four years of achievement?

On MSNBC Chris Hayes interviews Rebecca Traister, a writer from New York Magazine, about the alleged Cuomo accusations, but the substance of the report is not about the allegations but about the many Democratic politicians who are calling for Cuomo to resign- Its a big deal! Gillibrand, Schumer, and AOC, and other New York and national Democrats have called for the Governor to resign, which is very brave of them since they too might be accused of making their staff feel uncomfortable, one day.

There is no mention of why Cuomo should resign beyond “It is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York, and therefore he should resign” Cuomo should not resign because he is accused of, or established to have sexually harassed his female employees. He should resign because he has lost the confidence of the people of New York, so say the Senators.

Chris Hayes expresses visceral outrage when there are actual facts in support of a reason to be outraged. but in this case, he is playing it cool. Hayes reports the facts of the story and asks pointed questions, but does not himself take a position. He reports that Governor Cuomo denies that he touched anyone inappropriately. This does not matter in the court of public opinion where there is no “innocent until proven guilty”. But still, Chris Hayes reports that the Governor denies the substantive charges.

Hayes says everyone should read Rebecca Traister’s article. He describes Cuomo as having been a bulldozer for the duration of his public life and that one would kindly call him hard-charging, or less charitably call him a bully, subtly bringing up the interpretive nature of the allegations.

Hayes asks Traister how she puts it all together and she says “First of all it's all about power” — yes isn’t that what politics is about? Then, like all of Cuomo’s accusers, she builds up a case of behavior by association- if someone does such and such, then they also do so and so.

According to Traister, Como is a politician who is concerned about power which she ties to a will to dominate. Dominance has not been substantiated, only implied by tying the will to dominate to a concern for power, but Traister moves on to the next transition. Traister says: “The same attitude that “emboldens you to target a twenty-five-year-old also emboldens you to scrub a nursing home's records”.

This is the way the narrative evolves from a story that began with accusations of sexual harassment, it becomes a big story because there are six accusers, but- not much substance, so segue into power and dominance. Who would not agree that a politician concerned with power should be impeached? Next, reintroduce an innuendo about sexual harassment with no need to give it substance, as substance for the sexual harassment allegations are inferred in the characterization that we are dealing with a politician concerned about power and dominance. One thing that leads to another. If we can establish that a politician is concerned about power, we can establish that he is guilty of sexual harassment, and probably just about anything else.

Now we can tie sexual harassment to questions surrounding the method used for reporting deaths of nursing home residents in New York. According to Cuomo, the method of reporting had to do with avoiding double-counting nursing home deaths that are already counted as hospital deaths. The counting method is under investigation but “under investigation”, in the court of public opinion is interchangeable with “guilty of something, and if not something, then anything”.

Ms. Traister still has another association up her sleeve. She associates Cuomo with screaming, without actually saying that Cuomo is a screamer.

It is established on the record that Cuomo’s first sexual harassment accuser, Lindsey Boylan, resigned from her job in 2018 after reports that she screamed at her colleagues and belittled them, but you will not find this in Ms. Traister’s article. Here it is as reported in The Sun:

An internal memo written by an administration official in 2018, which was obtained by the Associated Press, indicates that Lindsey Boylan resigned after she was confronted about her own toxic office behavior.

“Ms. Boylan had behaved in a way towards them that was harassing, belittling, and had yelled and been generally unprofessional,” Julia Pinover Kupiec, the administration’s ethics officer, wrote in the note.

Boylan, who is married to investment banker LeRoy Kim, resigned after meeting with officials to be “counseled” about the complaints, according to the note.

In Ms. Traister’s article, some in Cuomo's office are said to “scream”, but it is not Cuomo who is said to be the screamer. What does that matter? Ms. Traister hypothetically identifies screaming with the same type of personal license that allows one to touch others inappropriately. She makes her case without saying that Cuomo did either- just implying! If Traister ever has to answer for what she said about Cuomo, she can deny that she said that he screamed or touched his employees inappropriately as she is only speaking hypothetically.

A Larger Political Concern

As a former Republican who has witnessed the political fall of many whom I one respected, there is a much more wide-sweeping political concern in this story than Cuomo. Democratic politicians are calling for Cuomo’s resignation as if none bothered to read the accusations before calling for the resignation of the accused. This is detrimental to the fabric of our society particularly after a popular false narrative inspired an insurrection at the Capital with the intent to stop a constitutional process and to kill members of Congress. Winning the battle against the false narrative is a high national priority, requiring the re-establishment of common standards for truth, based on evidence, not rumors, propaganda, and innuendos. Democrats calling for the resignation of Governor Cuomo are asserting, without applying any truth standard, that whatever Governor Cuomo’s accusers say is true and that what Cuomo says is not true. Investigations, called for by the Governor, are underway but the Democrats do not want to wait for the results of the investigation or a fair trial or hearing. So far, no one, excepting Cuomo, is speaking out against this abuse of our constitutional principles of fairness.

At least the Republicans had Romney to stand alone against the tide of his party. Where is the Democrat who will call out widespread actions by his or her own party in violation of one of the most basic constitutional principles on which this country was founded- innocent until proven guilty, and a fair trial under the law, not in the court of public opinion.

I hereby nominate AOC to step up to the plate. AOC is vocal. forthright and honest. If she thinks she is right to call for Cuomo’s resignation, tell us why, but it has to be more than uttering the phrase ”sexual harassment” without informing that phrase, and it also has to explain why she would assume what the accusers say to be true and what Cuomo says to be false without any investigation or evidence. Why is this different than the Trump base claiming that the election is a fraud without any evidence?

As for the allegations, they are all very weak claims until the most recent accuser, the sixth accuser, has finally come up with something solid, giving the Democrats what they need to call for resignation.

The Times Union, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported the aide was asked to help Cuomo with a minor technical issue involving his cell phone — but when she arrived at the governor’s mansion, Cuomo allegedly shut the door and began to grope her under her blouse.

The problem is that the above was published on March 10 but the accuser said something different on March 9:

She said another time the governor, “approached me. He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek, put his hand around my waist, and we took that picture together,” Liss said.

That incident was at a celebration of four years of on-time budgets.

…….“I’m not claiming sexual harassment per se. I’m just saying that it wasn’t a safe space for young women to work or for women in general,” Liss said.

The next day the story was changed. Forbes reported it as “The aide’s story was first reported Tuesday, but the details of her allegations were not reported at the time.” However the previous day. Ms. Liss specifically stated that she was not claiming sexual harassment so either Ms. Liss does not qualify “groping” as sexual harassment or she changed her story from one day to the next.

…….“I’m not claiming sexual harassment per se. I’m just saying that it wasn’t a safe space for young women to work or for women in general,” Liss said.

Despite the obvious discrepancy between these two statements, hoards of Democrats have called for Governor Cuomo to resign.

It is Cuomo who took action for the allegations to be dealt with within the context of the legal system.

His office at first said the inquiry would be conducted by former Federal Judge Barbara Jones.

But several high profile New York Democrats including Reps. Jerry Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — a longtime adversary of Cuomo — rejected that approach, stating that Cuomo should refer the matter to the state attorney general, who could appoint an independent investigator.

Cuomo’s office then altered its approach to the probe several times on Sunday. Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers, the governor’s office said they would refer the matter to New York Attorney General Letitia James, but at first suggested she should work with the chief judge of the Court of Appeals to choose an independent lawyer to conduct the investigation. James rejected that idea and said it was her sole duty to oversee it. By Sunday evening, Cuomo’s office had acquiesced. Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior adviser to the governor, called on James to choose “a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”

Reps. Jerry Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now calling for Cuomo to resign and not waiting for the results of the independent review that they demanded.

Something is going on here, but we don’t know what it is.

Sexuality is a biological fact of human nature, which we do not leave at home when we go to work. If we are going to punish every expression of sexuality, no matter how minor, then we penalize all healthy or relatively harmless expressions of our natural biological nature, and create the conditions of repressed sexuality that can only remain repressed for so long.

Whether of sexual nature, or some other, all of us, at some time, act in an ill-advised manner or say inappropriate things. A healthy human environment for human relations requires a degree of tolerance from each of us. If we accept a standard that criminalizes minor human imperfections, we are all in trouble.
Originally published on Medium, Fast and Slow Politics, March 14 2021 12:30 PM


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