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

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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.

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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village

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Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.

But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.

Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19

The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.

Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China

The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”

Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World

The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”

In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.

While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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