‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

UPDATED AT 3:52 PM (EST) TO INCLUDE STATEMENT FROM GOV. CUOMO’S OFFICE

In an essay, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday accused him of sexually harassing her, alleging that the governor engaged in unwanted kissing and touching and that his top female staffers “normalized” his behavior.

Lindsey Boylan, who is currently running for Manhattan Borough President, back in December accused Cuomo of sexual harassment for making inappropriate remarks about her appearance but at the time did not elaborate on her experiences. She worked for the Cuomo administration from March 2015 to October 2018, first as executive vice president of Empire State Development and then as a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor.

“Let’s play strip poker,” Boylan claimed Cuomo said on a flight from an event in October 2017, according to an essay she wrote on Medium that was published Wednesday.

In the essay, Boylan shares emails and screenshots of interactions, alleging that, shortly after an event in 2016, her former boss said that Cuomo had a “crush” on her.

Boylan also writes that, during a one-on-one briefing at Cuomo’s Third Avenue office in New York City, the governor “kissed me on the lips” as she was departing.

Cuomo, according to local station WRGB via CNYCentral, told reporters that Boylan’s claims were “not true.”

Cuomo’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, in a statement to this reporter doubled down on denying Boylan’s claims, calling them “quite simply false.”

Challenging Boylan’s story about the October 2017 flight, citing records and statements, Girouard’s statement claimed that “there was no flight where Lindsey was alone with the Governor, a single press aide, and a NYS Trooper.”

The press secretary pointed to the manifests from that month, which documented Cuomo’s daily work and travel schedule as well as the list of people on that month’s flights.

Girouard also brought up a statement attributed to administration officials she said were all on these flights with Boylan—John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever, and Abbey Fashouer Collins—saying: “We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen.”

Boylan and the officials who Girouard named, according to the manifests, were on flights together during that October.

“The Governor’s behavior made me nervous,” Boylan said at another point in her blog post, “but I didn’t truly fear him until December 2016.”

That month, Boylan said the governor arranged through his “body person” to meet her in his Albany office, with her hesitantly agreeing to see him. She writes that as Cuomo was giving her an office tour, he “smirked” and showed off a cigar box he said former President Bill Clinton gave him when he served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“The two-decade old reference to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not lost on me,” Boylan writes.

Additionally, Boylan said in her essay that when she joined Cuomo’s administration in 2015, a friend who served as an executive with an influential civic engagement organization warned her: “Be careful around the Governor.”

Boylan also alleged that Cuomo’s behavior “was all so normalized — particularly by Melissa DeRosa and other top women around him — that only now do I realize how insidious his abuse was.”

DeRosa has broken national headlines recently for privately admitting on a call with Democratic lawmakers, according to a February 11 New York Post report, that Cuomo’s administration withheld data about coronavirus-related deaths at New York nursing homes out of fear that it would be “used against us” by federal prosecutors.

RELATED: Report: Cuomo went after state Dem lawmaker for criticism over COVID-19 nursing home deaths

RELATED: ‘The bullying is nothing new’: de Blasio unleashes on Gov. Cuomo after lawmaker says he was threatened

In recent weeks, the administration revealed that 15,000 long-term care residents have died, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed, according to NBC News.

On March 25, when New York State found itself at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients, which many have argued caused the thousands of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths. The order has since been rescinded.

Late last month, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) published a report showing that the number of nursing home deaths “may have been undercounted by as much as 50%.”

Currently, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI are investigating the Cuomo administration’s handling of the nursing home death data.

Cuomo has denied the reports and accusations that his administration covered up the nursing home numbers, saying last Friday: “It is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate. […] Total deaths were always reported to nursing homes and hospitals.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.