Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s underlings attempted to discredit and smear the first woman to publicly speak out about his alleged sexual misconduct, according to the explosive official report released Tuesday that found he violated state and federal law through widespread harassment.
The report, commissioned by state Attorney General Letitia James and compiled by independent investigators, details attempts by the governor’s team to undermine the credibility of former Cuomo staffer Lindsey Boylan, who first spoke out late last year.
After Boylan tweeted in Dec. 2020 that the governor “sexually harassed” her over her looks, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi sent several reporters — including one from The Post — “confidential files” detailing workplace complaints against Boylan, along with a formal statement denying the allegations.
“Witnesses involved in disclosing the Confidential Files testified that the complainants’ names were redacted with WiteOut before they were sent to reporters,” according to the official report.
Azzopardi and Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top adviser, directed administration allies to coordinate the distribution of the files to journalists, the report continued.
One text-message exchange, between Post reporter Bernadette Hogan and former Cuomo spokesman Rich Bamberger, was included as evidence in the sprawling report.
“Azzo is sending to you any minute,” wrote Bamberger, referring to Azzopardi.
DeRosa testified to investigators that former Cuomo Chief of Staff Josh Vlasto was the first to propose weaponizing the files, in response to other tweets Boylan sent earlier in December that were critical of Cuomo.
Vlasto “first proposed releasing the Confidential Files to respond to the tweets Ms. Boylan sent before December 13,” according to the report.
Azzopardi cautioned against disclosing the files, warning that the move might blow up in the administration’s face.
“According to Ms. DeRosa, Mr. Azzopardi had also been against releasing the
Confidential Files because years earlier, a senior member of the Executive Chamber had read someone’s personnel file on the radio ‘and it was a disastrous public relations move,’” the report states.
But DeRosa ultimately decided to shop the personnel files around “because Ms. Boylan’s tweets had gotten ‘more and more escalating’ and the group’s view was that they had ‘made a mistake by not doing something earlier,’” she testified in the report.
In his own testimony for the report, Azzopardi said that the files were leaked “in order to correct demonstrably false information” about the circumstances of Boylan leaving state employment.
“According to him, Ms. Boylan had made public statements on Twitter and in the New York Post that ‘she left because of a toxic workplace, and she tried to quit three times until it actually stuck,’” the report states.
Azzopardi told three reporters, including one from The Post, that Boylan had, in fact, been fired, and said that the files would prove that.
“The Confidential Files, however, state that Ms. Boylan resigned voluntarily,” the report states — even noting that one of the documents included an entire section labeled “Ms. Boylan’s Resignation.”
Vlasto, meanwhile, “testified that he had supported disclosing the Confidential Files as long as it was legally permissible because the Confidential Files provided ‘relevant context for the reporters,’ ‘given that Lindsey [Boylan] was making accusations of harassment,’” according to the report.
For his part, Cuomo was unaware of the tactic until after the files had been released, at least according to DeRosa.
She testified that she “only notified the Governor about releasing the Confidential Files to the press after the Executive Chamber did so, because she wanted to protect
him from any criticism.”
Cuomo told investigators that “he did not recall having been in any conversation about disclosing the Confidential Files, and that he only learned about it after the fact from the press,” according to the report.
The report even included a March 2021 diary entry by an unidentified author of one of the confidential files, detailing their reaction to the records’ release.
“When Azzo[pardi] released my 2018 HR type memo about the Lindsay’s exit counseling session I was surprised and not surprised at the same time,” the author wrote. “I knew that senior staff had the documents and my files from that time, but I was not told it was going to the press until after it was out.
“Also I thought it was attorney client privilege and I assumed I would have been told if the Governor decided to waive that privilege,” the entry continued. “I also was kind of surprised because I didn’t think it was a great rebuttal to what she [Boylan] was saying—the counseling session didn’t have anything to do with sexual harassment (there was none alleged at the time) . . . I was however not prepared for how widely my memo went out—I was dismayed when my memo was picked up in papers literally around the world and domestically—
“[T]his was not how I wanted to find my name in People Magazine.”
Just two days after Boylan alleged that Cuomo had sexually harassed her, the governor personally wrote a draft of a proposed open letter or op-ed piece pushing back on the accusations and attacking Boylan’s reputation, the report stated, citing the testimony of staffers including DeRosa.
Drafts of the piece variously touched on the contents of the personnel records, “alleged interactions between Ms. Boylan and male colleagues other than the Governor,” and “theories about [Boylan’s] connections with supporters of President Trump and a politician with an alleged interest in running for Governor.”
Cuomo testified that he didn’t recall personally penning a letter, but acknowledged offering his input on drafts circulated around the office.
DeRosa advised Cuomo against publishing the letter, “in part because the draft included information that was based on hearsay and secondhand sources” she felt would be difficult to back up with evidence.
When few former Cuomo staffers expressed interest in signing on to the letter, plans for its publication were scrapped.
In a video rebutting the report on Tuesday, Cuomo again denied touching anyone inappropriately, while continuing to apologize for what he has characterized as misinterpretations of his words and actions by his accusers.
Azzopardi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report’s findings pertaining to Boylan’s files and the the proposed letter.