Since the numerous allegations of rape and sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein have come out, most Democratic politicians have made a big show of donating the money they’ve received from Weinstein over the years back to women’s organizations.
Everyone, that is, except for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is only returning $50,000 of the $118,204 he has raised from Weinstein to an unspecified women’s charity. If you’re counting, that means he is less than half sorry that he took money from an alleged rapist.
According to Politico, Cuomo’s reasoning is that the money has “been spent and is gone.” (Cuomo currently has $25.7 million sitting in his campaign war chest, according to the site.) He then gave the classic I Have Fathered Many Daughters line:
“That’s what this is really about: It’s bigger than Harvey Weinstein. I have three daughters — I want to make sure at the end of the day, this world is a safer, better world for my three daughters.”
Cuomo went on to explain to reporters how he wasn’t missing the point, everyone else was missing the point goddammit!
“Getting into tiffs about Harvey Weinstein’s money sort of misses the point,” he said. “Do you support legislation that penalizes sexual assault against women? Do you support legislation that will stop campus sexual assaults, which is an epidemic in this country that has been covered up for too long? Those are the questions that should be asked of these politicians. Now, they would rather talk about Harvey Weinstein rather than talk about themselves.”
On one hand, Cuomo is right—giving the money back is an easy symbolic gesture (which makes his decision not to give the money back even more dumbfounding). It’s also a pretty biased controversy pushed by the GOP. But as Cuomo himself says, it’s what politicians actually do to combat gender discrimination and promote female equality that matters more. So what has the governor done?
Yes, as mentioned in the Politico article, Cuomo has championed a “Women’s Equality Agenda” and pushed for affirmative consent in New York’s college campuses. But Cuomo is also widely suspected to be instrumental in propping up the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway Democratic state senators who caucus with Republicans, effectively giving the latter party a majority in the State Senate that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Many see the IDC as the reason why Democrats have been stymied in their efforts to pass legislation ensuring that women have strong reproductive rights. (Currently, New York’s abortion laws predate Roe v. Wade.) The IDC also effectively keeps Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democratic minority leader, from being the first black female senate majority leader in the state’s history.
And then there is the notorious Women’s Equality Party, a third party that Cuomo created that’s largely seen as an effort to pick off voters from the state’s progressive Working Families Party. As Michelle Goldberg wrote about the WEP (whose acronym is notably just one letter different from the WFP) in the Nation, “Cuomo’s creation of the Women’s Equality Party is an attempt to use feminism against the Working Families Party, the real champions of New York’s women.”
Even the political calculus here is hard to justify. The lowest bar for Democratic politicians to pass is to give the Weinstein money back. It’s a bar, it seems, that Cuomo cannot even clear.
Update, 6:26 p.m.: Basil A. Smikle Jr., chair of the New York Democratic Party, announced Thursday evening that Cuomo will indeed return money donated to his campaign by Harvey Weinstein.