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Updated: Former Cuomo aide comes forward with explosive details of #MeToo allegations

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'Today I am telling my story'

Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who previously accused him of sexual harassment has come forward with details of the harassment she allegedly experienced.

Lindsey Boylan, formerly the deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser in the Cuomo administration from March 2015 to October 2018, accused Gov. Cuomo of sexual harassment and bullying in a written post published on Medium Wednesday.

"Today I am telling my story," Boylan said in a tweet sharing the post. "I never planned to share the details of my experience working in the Cuomo administration, but I am doing so now in the hopes that it may make it easier for others to speak their own truth."

"Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences," Boylan wrote in her explosive post.

The allegations of impropriety include Cuomo asking his aides to play strip poker with him; closed-door meetings between the governor and Boylan, a married woman, in which Cuomo allegedly made references to President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky; Valentine's Day deliveries of roses to Boylan and other female staffers; inappropriate physical touching; and a nonconsensual kiss on the lips.

Boylan first went public with accusations that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed her last December, but declined to give further details at the time. In her Medium post, she explained that the decision to share "a small part of the truth I had hidden for so long in shame" was spontaneous, made after another unnamed former Cuomo staffer shared her story of the governor's workplace harassment on Dec. 12.

"Seeing his name floated as a potential candidate for U.S. Attorney General — the highest law enforcement official in the land — set me off," Boylan wrote.

"In a few tweets, I told the world what a few close friends, family members and my therapist had known for years: Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just as he had done with so many other women."

After Boylan came forward with her allegations, the New York Post reported a statement from a Cuomo spokeswoman that categorically denied the accusations, saying, "There is simply no truth to these claims."

In a statement, Cuomo's press secretary Caitlin Girouard again denied the allegations.

"As we said before, Ms. Boylan's claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false," Girouard said.

The governor's office disputed a claim from Boylan's Medium post about an October 2017 flight on a taxpayer-funded jet during which Cuomo allegedly said "let's play strip poker" in front of her, his press aide, and a state trooper. They provided a copy of the governor's flight manifests from that October and a joint statement from John Maggiore, Howard Zemsky, Dani Lever and Abbey Fashouer Collins, all individuals who were on all of these flights with her, denying that Cuomo ever said such a thing.

"We were on each of these October flights and this conversation did not happen," they said.

In her post, Boylan recounts that after she joined the state government in 2015 as vice president at Empire State Development, she was promoted to chief of staff at the state economic development agency. After her promotion, she says that a friend "who served as an executive with an influential civic engagement organization" warned her to "be careful around the governor."

Boylan said that Cuomo began paying special attention to her and that she was later informed by her boss that the governor had a "crush" on her.

She shared a copy of a Dec. 14, 2016, email from Stephanie Benton, the director of the governor's offices, in which Benton told Boylan that the governor thought she looked like Lisa Shields, "his rumored former girlfriend." Benton also said that the governor thought the two "could be sisters" but that Boylan would be "the better looking sister."

"I had complained to friends that the Governor would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs," Boylan wrote.

She also accused the governor's staff of "keeping tabs on my whereabouts," sharing screenshots of an email from one of the governor's senior staff members, Jill DesRosiers, asking her supervisor Howard Zemsky if she would be attending an event where the governor would be.

Boylan says that she began to "fear" Governor Cuomo in December 2016 when the governor requested that she meet him alone in his office.

"As he showed me around, I tried to maintain my distance. He paused at one point and smirked as he showed off a cigar box. He told me that President Clinton had given it to him while 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 wrote.

Following this, she claims Cuomo's "inappropriate gestures became more frequent." He would send roses to female staffers on Valentine's Day and "arranged to have one delivered to me, the only one on my floor." He also sent her a signed photograph that "appeared in my closed-door office while I was out."

"These were not-so-subtle reminders of the Governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him," Boylan wrote.

She also said his "pervasive harassment" extended to other women, including making "unflattering comments" about their weight, ridiculing their romantic relationships and significant others, and claiming that the reasons men get women are "money and power."

"I tried to excuse his behavior. I told myself 'it's only words.' But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking," Boylan alleges.

Following this incident, Boylan says that her relationship with the rest of Cuomo's staff deteriorated because she began "speaking up for myself."

"I was reprimanded and told to get in line by his top aides, but I could no longer ignore it," she wrote. She resigned from the Cuomo administration on Sep. 26, 2018.

"There is a part of me that will never forgive myself for being a victim for so long, for trying to ignore behavior that I knew was wrong. The Governor exploited my weaknesses, my desire to do good work and to be respected. I was made to believe this was the world I needed to survive in," Boylan wrote.

She says that since she came forward with her accusations against Cuomo, two other women reached out to her with their own experiences of harassment by Cuomo.

"Telling my truth isn't about seeking revenge. I was proud to work in the Cuomo Administration. For so long I had looked up to the Governor. But his abusive behavior needs to stop."

Boylan is not the first associate of Gov. Cuomo to accuse him of bullying and harassment. New York State Democratic lawmaker Assemblyman Ron Kim alleges that Cuomo threatened to "destroy" him for criticisms of the nursing home scandal in New York. More than three dozen legislators, political consultants, former state and city officials, and New York political veterans recently spoke to the New York Times about Cuomo's "bullying" behavior, the "toxic and controlling" work environment in his office, and his penchant for governing by "fear."

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Feb. 24, 2021 at 2:50 p.m. with a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office.

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