Around lunchtime Tuesday, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, was tethered to the phone with her mother, helping her with household logistics. All week, Burke had watched the fallout from a report by the New York attorney general that Gov. Andrew Cuomo harassed nearly a dozen women. But Cuomo had vowed to stay on, and like most observers, Burke believed he would fight to the death.
Suddenly Burke’s mother shouted over the phone, “He quit!
Cuomo had announced he would step down as governor, soon releasing the post he had held for 10 years.
With that, history changed, for Burke and for everyone.
Much of Cuomo’s story until Tuesday was about what didn’t change – the durability of sexual harassment and how difficult it was to address it. He would have targeted women even as a global calculation was unfolding under his nose. Two summers ago, Cuomo signed sweeping new protections for women in New York City. The next day, he resumed his unwelcome pursuit of a female state soldier, according to the attorney general’s report.
Even in recent years, the top state office appeared to be a step backwards, according to the report, with unclear avenues for forwarding complaints and widespread fear of retaliation. That fear was proven to be true: After her first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, spoke out in February, her office tried to tarnish her. As more and more women came forward, Cuomo’s public posture was mostly dismissive, and it was also unclear how much New Yorkers cared.
Even his resignation speech was somewhat reluctant and he called the investigation biased. “In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize how much the line has been redrawn,” Cuomo said yesterday. “There are generational and cultural changes that I just haven’t fully appreciated.”
But now Cuomo’s story demonstrates the durability of the movement. Almost four years after the Harvey Weinstein revelations sparked a global toll – with #MeToo still on fire in business, entertainment and sports – a group of mostly young women brought in a three-term governor and heir to a political dynasty, estimate.
“I don’t know if someone of this importance has resigned,” Burke said.
Of the now vast array of #MeToo public scandals, political scandals are often the most significant – because of the stakes and symbolism involved – but also the most tortured, as they become so partisan and often defy neat ends.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings turned into war. Democrats are still arguing over whether former Senator Al Franken should have stepped down. Although a long line of women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, these allegations seem unlikely to be resolved. Against this background, Cuomo’s story stands out for the consensus among elected Democratic leaders that he could not stay in office.
In New York City, what has helped differentiate one outcome from another is the Attorney General’s investigation – the kind of scrutiny that these situations require but hardly ever get.
“This is what we are asking,” Anita Hill said in an interview, speaking almost 30 years after introducing the concept of sexual harassment to many Americans while testifying against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. . “We should take this as a model. “
Jodi Kantor is an investigative reporter for The Times who shared a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
The endless pleasures of vegetarian cuisine
The world of vegetarian cooking is vast – and more and more people are incorporating it into their diets, whether for ethical, health, sustainability reasons, or simply out of love for green vegetables.
A new newsletter from Tejal Rao, the Times California food critic, will celebrate vegetables. “I’m not sure exactly when my appetite became so intensely focused on vegetarian foods in my own kitchen. It happened slowly, then suddenly, like pastry cream thickening on the stove, ”she wrote. “I revised my food shopping and my home cooking followed. “
The Veggie, which starts tomorrow, promises to be packed with traditional fare, everyday fare, and fun experiences. You can register for the first edition here. – Sanam Yar, a morning writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was dazzling. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini crosswords and a hint: cry (three letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
PS A hidden haiku from a Times story about swimming with a manta ray in Hawaii: “I tried to make it run / and lost, dizzy and in awe of the sighting. “