Democratic Party Double Standard: #MeToo for Kavanaugh, #NotSoFast for Cuomo

Many prominent Democrats are reacting very differently to the recent multiple accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against their fellow Democrat, New York’s embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks Wednesday at a church in the Harlem section of New York.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks Wednesday at a church in the Harlem section of New York. (photo: Seth Wenig/Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

Many prominent Democrats — notably including Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have shown very different responses over the recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault against New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and to those made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearings. 

Despite their past calls to believe women, and statements of belief in allegations prior to investigation, such  lawmakers would now like to await the outcome of an investigation of the allegations against Cuomo, or have simply remained silent on them. 

Cuomo is facing multiple accusations of making unwanted sexual advances and asking inappropriate questions of former aides, including kissing former staffer Lindsey Boylan on the lips and asking a 25-year-old former staffer Charlotte Bennett whether she was willing to have sexual relationships with older men. The governor has denied some of the allegations, while acknowledging that some of his actions such as kissing people as a greeting made people uncomfortable. He said in response, “I fully support a woman's right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it.” He added, “I am embarrassed by it. And that's not easy to say. But that's the truth. But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately.”

On the heels of another scandal over Cuomo’s alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis that included putting COVID patients in nursing homes, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for him to resign. However, some top Democratic leaders have stopped short of calling for his resignation, something that contrasts sharply with their response to then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he faced sexual assault allegations.

Vice President Harris, a former sex-crimes prosecutor, is particularly being called out for her apparent double standard. She has stayed silent on the allegations against Cuomo, whereas prior to ever hearing the Senate testimony of Justice Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford, Harris declared, “I believe her.” Then-Sen. Harris said at the time that there are "many cases where there was enough evidence to believe something happened but not necessarily prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in a courtroom, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen." 

She later tweeted, “There are three women willing to testify under oath about credible allegations. The GOP continues to refuse to call for an FBI investigation. It is time for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to be immediately withdrawn. Enough is enough.” Some of the additional allegations that Harris deemed “credible” were from Julie Swetnick, who alleged that Kavanaugh was present at parties where gang rape occurred, but later contradicted her own signed affidavit in an interview with NBC. Harris ultimately called Kavanaugh’s confirmation a “denial of justice for the women of this country, and sexual assault survivors.”

When it comes to the seven women alleging sexual misconduct against Gov. Cuomo, Harris even ignored a question for comment on the matter from a reporter this week despite many other lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., calling for his resignation “due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.”

Similarly, House Speaker Pelosi, again before hearing Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, called for Kavanaugh to “withdraw his name from consideration.” She posted on social media, “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made the courageous decision to come forward with her story of sexual assault by now-Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We stand with her. We #BelieveSurvivors.” When Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, Pelosi called it “a profoundly heartbreaking day for women, girls and families across America” and said, “Senate Republicans chose to send a clear message to all women: do not speak out, and if you do — do not expect to be heard, believed or respected.”

Her tone has been substantially different when it comes to the allegations against Cuomo. “I think we should see the results (of the investigation), but he may decide -— and hopefully this result will be soon -— and what I'm saying is the governor should look inside his heart, he loves New York, to see if he can govern effectively,” she said. When asked directly why she wouldn’t call for him to resign, Pelosi responded, “He’s a New Yorker, I’ve said what I said, that’s my statement.”

“What these women have said must be treated with respect. They are credible and serious charges, and then I called for an investigation. I have confidence in the Attorney General of New York,” Pelosi added. “Again, with all respect in the world for what these women have come forward and said.” New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment.

President Biden commented on the allegations Tuesday, telling ABC News that if the allegations against Cuomo are true he should step down and “he’ll probably end up being prosecuted, too.” He stated that “a woman should be presumed telling the truth and should not be scapegoated and become victimized by her coming forward” and that it “takes a lot of courage to come forward, so, the presumption is they should be taken seriously. And it should be investigated. And that's what's underway now.”

Biden commented in 2018 on the Kavanaugh allegations that “for a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.” 

He later qualified that statement further, after facing allegations of sexual assault himself from his former Senate staffer Tara Reade. Morning Joehost Mika Brzezinski asked him last year, “Why is it real for Dr. Ford but not for Tara Reade?” and “Are women to be believed unless it pertains to you?" 

“What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was that she had the right to be heard,” he replied. “The fact that [Ford] came forward, the presumption would be she’s telling the truth unless it’s proved she wasn’t telling the truth or not proved, but unless it’s clear from the facts surrounding it, it’s not the truth."  He said that “any woman, they should come forward, they should be heard" when it comes to sexual assault allegations, and that all allegations, including those against him by Reade, “should be investigated.”

Vice President Harris applied her own changing view of the standard for believing allegations to those made against Biden. Earlier, when he was accused of inappropriate kissing and touching by four women, including former Nevada Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores in April 2019, Harris said, “I believe them, and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it.” 

When Reade’s more serious allegation of sexual assault was raised a year later, as Harris was being considered as a running mate for Biden, she responded that she could “only speak to the Joe Biden I know.”

While the investigation into the allegations against Gov. Cuomo proceeds, prominent Democrats would do well to decide whether they would like to uniformly adopt the standard that all women with sexual assault allegations must be believed or whether an investigation and due process should be the standard in all cases.

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