What to Know
- Allegations of bullying by Gov. Andrew Cuomo were again suggested after new audio was released of a phone call from 2018
- The governor does not remember making the threat and "was clearly being hyperbolic," a spokesperson for Cuomo told NBC New York
- The audio surfaced as a second current aide to the governor made accusations of Cuomo acting inappropriately
New audio obtained by NBC New York of a reported 2018 phone call between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the Working Families Party displays what critics say is another example of the New York leader's penchant for hostility.
Near the end of February, The New York Times reported on a phone conversation where Cuomo used stark language in response to the progressive group's decision to back him in the then upcoming general election as a better alternative to Republican Marc Molinaro.
"If you ever say, 'Well he's better than a Republican' again, then I'm gonna say, 'You're better than a child rapist.' How about that?" Cuomo is heard saying on the call, obtained late Friday by NBC New York.
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“Governor, I apologize, but I gotta clarify one thing,” the leader of the Working Families Party is heard responding to the governor on the call. “You’re free to say whatever you want, governor, but I just want to be clear. Our line is going to be that we have differences with you, but our differences with Republicans are far greater.”
The snippet of the 2018 call was first made public on Friday, almost a month after the Times reported the outburst and the governor's spokespeople denied the reporting. The Times first shared the audio in an episode of The Daily podcast that aired Friday morning.
Rich Azzopardi, a regular spokesperson for the governor, says Cuomo doesn't remember the exchange.
"This three-year-old conversation happened after a very contentious political campaign where things were charged on all sides. He doesn't remember it occurring, but from how it has been described he was clearly being hyperbolic to illustrate the offensive nature of the WFP's own name calling," Azzopardi told NBC New York.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not seem surprised about what the governor was heard saying, saying it's a toxic attitude that has gone too far.
"That's what I've seen playing out now, but it's all behavior we've seen different versions of before that has gotten worse and worse," de Blasio said.
The audio surfaced as a second current aide to the governor made accusations of Cuomo acting inappropriately. The New York Times reported late Friday that Alyssa McGrath accused the governor of "ogling her body, remarking on her looks, and making suggestive comments to her and another woman in his office."
McGrath's accusations come after an unnamed aide accused the governor of groping her when they were alone late last year, The Times Union of Albany reported last week. McGrath, who is the first current aide whose name was made public, told The New York Times the unnamed aide described the alleged encounter with her after it went public last week.
The 33-year-old McGrath claims the governor told her co-worker not to talk to McGrath about the incident. The two reportedly work closely and often with one another. McGrath's own account, as described in the report, paints her own picture of sexual harassment while supporting claims made by her co-worker.
McGrath has not accused Cuomo of making inappropriate contact, but described exchanges with the governor that she described as sexual harassment. She claims the governor is known for "mixing flirtatious banter with more personal comments." A lawyer for the governor reportedly told the Times he often greets men and women with hugs and kisses and "uses Italian phrases like 'ciao Bella.'"
"The governor's deflections are not credible," McGrath's lawyer, Mariann Wang, told NBC New York. "This was not just friendly banter. Ms. McGrath understands the common phrase "ciao Bella." As she herself says: "I would not call my parents to find out what that phrase means. I know what that phrase means."
McGrath also detailed an alleged exchange between herself, the governor and her co-worker last year on the Saturday before the state's first confirmed case of COVID-19 when the two women were asked to work over the weekend at the mansion. She claims the governor asked if McGrath was going to "mingle" with any men at an upcoming work trip to Florida and that, for the rest of the day, he referred to both women as "mingle mamas."
McGrath is the eighth woman to allege the governor acted inappropriately around her. As investigations into those allegations continue, the FBI is looking into claims of a numbers cover-up regarding the administration's reporting of nursing home COVID death numbers last year. The FBI may also be looking into how the administration helped get a provision into last year's budget that gave nursing home operators immunity from COVID-related lawsuits.
De Blasio, a frequent Cuomo critic even before the allegations, said nursing home operators were big donors to the governor.
A request for comment has been sent to Gov. Cuomo's legal counsel.
"We did speak about the budget, it was fine," Stewart-Cousins said. "People of New York expect us to do that and that's where we are focused."
New York Attorney General Tish James made her first on-camera public comments Monday on the independent investigation into the governor.
"The investigation is ongoing. We are still interviewing witnesses. Other than that, not more to report other than it will continue," she said.
Cuomo's aides insist the governor is cooperating with investigations and focused on his job, an assertion confirmed by state Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins who, despite calling on Cuomo to resign, said she is communicating with the governor.
"We did speak about the budget - it was fine," Stewart-Cousins said Monday. "People of New York expect us to do that and that's where we are focused."
Meanwhile, polling suggests that while Cuomo’s support slipped following the allegation of groping at the Executive Mansion, his political base hasn’t abandoned him.
A Quinnipiac University poll of 905 registered voters found that while 43 percent believe he should resign, 36 percent of women polled said he should quit and nearly a quarter of Democrats in the state wanted him to resign. Just under half of respondents (49 percent) said they did not want Cuomo to step down, according to the poll.
Among respondents of all political affiliations, 36m percent said Cuomo should be impeached and removed from office. The poll was conducted before McGrath’s allegations were made public.