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Sexual Harassment and the Call to Impeach Cuomo: American Puritanism on Parade

Powerful men and the double standard: moral behavior applies only to others. Four years of Donald Trump should have taught us this. Now it’s Cuomo’s turn

by Laura Wagner

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, during a press conference.

I’m not suggesting in any way, that Andrew Cuomo should not be held accountable for this behavior, most especially following the #MeToo movement, which he praised loudly and promoted emphatically. The double standard seems to be at play once again. However, when a person who has been held in such esteem, during a most unprecedented time in history, has used his position to take advantage of non -consenting women, then action should be taken. It’s my belief though, that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime.

Over the years I’ve prided myself on my connection to the Italian community. That is, my circle of friends living in Italy, as well as the many others also linked to Italy. I’ve learned much about the differences in culture, values, priorities and especially their views on ‘our’ practices. I should add that the similarities fill as long a column as the differences.

When Bill Clinton was impeached for improper conduct years ago, my Italian friends laughed and mentioned that his behavior was not only common on their ‘shores’ but cause for applause. Seeking the admiration of a young intern was nothing new, and certainly not worthy of impeachment. This debate goes on, and clearly since the #MeToo movement, much has changed. At least much has changed on what is now considered improper behavior in the work force.

Having spent four years with a ‘malpractice’ president (I am using that term to identify Trump’s misdemeanors in the act of ‘practicing as president’), we should be somewhat conditioned to the art of powerful men getting away with sexual harassment. The crimes of Donald Trump are far too long to list, and we are finally getting over his destructive deranged conduct that we witnessed on an almost daily basis. However, his abuse of power pertaining to women has even concerned my Italian ‘macho’ friends abroad. There seemed to be a limit to the number of indiscretions one can digest.  It became a conversation regarding the American mindset compared to the Italian.

For most of my Italian friends, what seems clear is their view of the puritanical proprieties of Americans. For many, we remain righteous in terms of acceptable behavior when men of power are in question. For many of these same people, laws do not apply to themselves, as they are not subject to the same scrutiny.

All these comparisons, differences, and similarities seem to pale when discussing the recent allegations made by two former employees of Governor Andrew Cuomo, a recently inducted idol in the hall of governors, globally.

Will we ever forget Rudolf Giuliani’s bellowing voice after the attacks of September 11th, or George W. Bush’s megaphone-aided messages at the site of ground zero? On this list we could now add Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings during this yearlong pandemic. His reassuring words, with honest, heartfelt concern over the unimaginable updates that he was reporting to a country and city filled with fear, was at times accompanied by a chorus of clanging pots and pans out of windows, citywide—to show appreciation for the frontline healthcare workers.

We are still reeling over the events of this past year, and yet, with the announcement last week that Cuomo harassed several women – two attached to the office of governor – we are screaming for impeachment. “Off with his head” (and other body parts, that Donald Trump would have no problem describing).  Once again, we see the’ American Puritans on Parade’.

I’m not suggesting in any way, that Andrew Cuomo should not be held accountable for this behavior, most especially following the #MeToo movement, which he praised loudly and promoted emphatically. The double standard seems to be at play once again.  However, when a person who has been held in such esteem, during a most unprecedented time in history, has used his position to take advantage of non -consenting women, then action should be taken. It’s my belief though, that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime.

I am certain there will be many who will vehemently disagree with my point of view, especially women of a certain age and generation. There was a time when a wink or a mild flirtation in the office was considered a compliment!  Of course, calling all Americans Puritans is a gross overstatement, but to put this in perspective, is simply what needs to be considered.

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