Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his brother, former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, suffered two of the nation’s biggest downfalls of 2021 — but even with their disgraceful departures, experts say it’s still too early to count them out.
Andrew Cuomo appeared poised to win a fourth term next year — and beat the three victories scored by his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo — until a bombshell, August report from state Attorney General Letitia James accused him of sexually harassing 11 women, including nine current or former state workers.
With the detailed allegations all but guaranteeing impeachment, Andrew Cuomo threw in the towel a week later, saying that while “my instinct is to fight,” he knew “how the political wind is blowing.”
“He was not as strong as he thought and far weaker than he appeared,” said veteran Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who’s worked both for and against Andrew Cuomo.
“He didn’t understand a very basic street rule, which is: When you stand up, they throw tomatoes at you.”
And while his ignominious departure from Albany’s Executive Mansion ended the political bloodletting, the revelations in James’ report sparked criminal investigations by at least five district attorneys across the state.
Although two probes — in Nassau and Westchester counties — recently concluded without any charges, Andrew Cuomo, 64, was charged in late October with forcible touching, a misdemeanor, for allegedly groping a 33-year-old aide, Brittany Commisso, inside the mansion on Dec. 7, 2020.
Following that development, James began releasing interview transcripts and other evidence from the probe she commissioned, including a trove of material involving younger brother Chris Cuomo, 51.
The records revealed that Chris Cuomo secretly schemed with his brothers’ aides to defend the embattled governor, including by reaching out to media-industry sources about potentially damaging reports and by trying to dig up dirt on at least one accuser.
The disclosures led CNN to suspend the “Cuomo Prime Time” host from his reported $6 million-a-year job, then fire him after the network was informed about unspecified allegations of sexual misconduct dating to when Chris Cuomo formerly worked for ABC News.
Beyond occasional posts on Twitter and Instagram that show he’s grown a scruffy beard, Andrew Cuomo — who at last count had more than $18 million in his political war chest -— has maintained a low public profile since quitting as governor.
But his defense lawyer, Rita Glavin, in November publicly acknowledged “widespread speculation” that Andrew Cuomo “may attempt a political comeback,” before quickly adding: “I don’t know what the answer to that is.
Sheinkopf — who helped then-state Comptroller Carl McCall fend off a Democratic primary challenge by Andrew Cuomo during the 2002 gubernatorial race — said that if the former governor “is able to get past all the criminal allegations,” he’s more than likely to reenter politics.
“What’s left? That he has a loud mouth and he threatens people?” Sheinkopf said.
“This guy is not someone you count out. I helped take him out in 2002 and he came back stronger than ever. He’s the Dracula of American politics.”
Pollster Lee Miringoff, the longtime director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, said of Andrew Cuomo, “The only way he can put this in his rearview window is by running and winning something.”
“This chapter comes to a close during the next campaign,” he said.
Miringoff also noted that Chris Cuomo’s “ratings were very strong, and assuming there’s no more stories … I could see him living to fight another day.”
Gerald Benjamin, the founder and former director of The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz, said Chris Cuomo might even have a future in the family business of politics.
“It depends on what the circumstances are. Never say never,” he said.
“The world takes massively unpredictable turns. He’s a very talented man and has been admired.”