In 2017, upstate New York was hit by some fairly serious flooding. One of the towns that were partially submerged was Greece, a suburb of Rochester near the banks of Lake Ontario. That’s where Sherry Vill and her family lived and she was somewhat surprised when Governor Andrew Cuomo showed up to tour her property and survey the damage. Then, according to Vill, things took a turn when the Governor sexually harassed her. Vill is now the 7th woman to come forward with allegations of this sort, while the Governor continues to defend his actions as not being sexual in nature. Vill disagrees, and unlike some of the other accusations facing Cuomo, she has pictures to prove it. (NBC News)
A married New York woman said Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo grabbed her by her face, gave her unwanted kisses and appeared to come on to her in front of her son while touring flood damage on her property in 2017.
Sherry Vill said she was introduced to Cuomo, in her Greece, New York, home where he leaned over and kissed her cheeks in a “highly sexual manner.”
“He said, ‘That’s what Italians do — kiss both cheeks,’” Vill told reporters in an online news conference with her lawyer, Gloria Allred.
Vill’s adult son was present and taking pictures and video of the Governor’s visit. That evidence includes the uninvited kiss.
There was allegedly video of the incident as well, but Vill’s son says that he no longer has the video.
It’s getting to the point where the shock value of these allegations is wearing off. Cuomo is once again falling back on the same defense he’s used in the past. His attorney released the following statement to the press.
Rita Glavin, a lawyer for Cuomo, said, “During times of crisis, the governor has frequently sought to comfort New Yorkers with hugs and kisses. As I have said before, the governor has greeted both men and women with hugs, a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand for the past forty years.”
I suppose the Governor isn’t lying. He’s clearly been “comforting” people with uninvited hugs and kisses for decades, so there’s no shortage of women describing similar experiences. Vill is being represented by Gloria Allred, which always makes me a bit suspicious, but in this case, the evidence is pretty strong.
This story doesn’t end with two uninvited grabs and kisses, however. Vill later received an autographed photo of herself and the Governor in the mail. That was followed by a phone call inviting her to attend a public event with Cuomo. The invitation was not extended to her entire family or her husband. Vill claims that only she was invited to join the Governor. That made her suspicious enough of his motives to turn down the invitation.
I don’t expect Cuomo to suddenly cave at this point and resign. He’s relying on the perception that these incidents are so marginal in terms of claiming even sexual harassment, to say nothing of sexual assault, that voters will write them off as well-meaning. While we now understand that invading someone’s personal space without consent is unacceptable, greeting people with a kiss on the cheek was, for a long time, accepted in many portions of society. What Cuomo expected to happen at the event he invited Vill to remains unknown, but it would be hard to make the case (at least in court) that the Governor was hitting on her right in front of her son.
Of course, neither Vill nor the rest of Cuomo’s accusers need to score a victory in front of a jury. If this process plays out in a way that results in impeachment hearings, the accusers don’t need to meet that high of a bar. Impeachment remains a political process, not a criminal one. Investigations into the Governor’s actions are ongoing and even the Democrats in the state legislature have to be getting tired of seeing these headlines week after week. There’s enough Democratic support in terms of denouncing Cuomo that the legislature could probably muster the votes to impeach him. But one thing seems clear. Andrew Cuomo will have to be removed from the Governor’s mansion kicking and screaming. He has no intention of leaving of his own volition.