Lindsey Boylan, who was the first woman to publicly accuse NY Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual assault has announced plans to sue him and his staff for their effort to discredit her, claims a new report.
The former Cuomo adviser came forward publicly in December last year to claim that the governor had sexually harassed her, making comments on her looks and at one point asking if she would play a game of strip poker with him.
But Cuomo's office allegedly sought to discredit Boylan's claims and smear her name, which was revealed in Attorney General Letitia James' report, released on Tuesday, which found the governor had sexually harassed 11 women.
Now, Boylan's lawyer Jill Basinger told The New York Times that she would take the governor and his close advisers to court and sue them for those retaliatory actions.
'Because Lindsey was first, the governor needed to send a message,' said Basinger. 'He needed to send a message to every other survivor out there that this is what happens when you go against the machine of the governor's office.'
Some of Cuomo's closest advisors reportedly sought the help of women's advocacy group Time's Up Legal Defense Fund founder Roberta Kaplan and Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen to draft a letter seeking to discredit Boylan and deny her allegations.
Lindsey Boylan, who was the first woman to publicly accuse NY Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual assault has announced plans to sue him and his staff for their effort to discredit her, claims a new report
But Cuomo's office allegedly sought to discredit Boylan's claims and smear her name, which was revealed in Attorney General Letitia James' report, released on Tuesday, which found the governor had sexually harassed 11 women
The alleged involvement of Tchen and Kaplan in Cuomo's denial letter, was revealed in Attorney General Letitia James' report, released on Tuesday, which found Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women.
In her 165-page report, James stated that a group of advisors for Cuomo last December, sought to pen a letter that, 'denied the legitimacy of Ms. Boylan's allegations, impugned her credibility, and attacked her claims as politically motivated.'
The report alleged Top Cuomo Aide Melissa DeRosa, former Chief of Staff Jill Des Rosiers and outgoing counsel Judith Mogul dismissed Boylan's claims and tried to cover them up in order to protect the governor.
DeRosa testified that Cuomo initially drafted the letter by hand, although the governor testified that he did not 'remember handwriting any document,' but that he 'participated in drafts.'
The letter was intended to be sent to former colleagues of Boylan and Cuomo for them to sign, and then published, possibly as an op-ed.
Staff for Gov. Andrew Cuomo recruited the help of Time's Up co-founders Roberta Kaplan (left) and Tina Tchen during an effort to discredit allegations of sexual harassment by former Cuomo aide Lyndsey Boylan
DeRosa testified that she had misgivings about the letter, and worried that it would 'backfire,' so Cuomo asked her to reach out to Kaplan for input.
'According to Ms. DeRosa, Ms. Kaplan read the letter to the head of the advocacy group Times Up [Tchen], and both of them allegedly suggested that, without the statements about Ms. Boylan’s interactions with male colleagues, the letter was fine,' James said in her report.
Time's Up is a charity that raises money to support victims of sexual harassment, and was formed at the beginning of 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement.
In further damning accusations, Dani Lever, one of Facebook's to communications managers allegedly helped Cuomo's staff distribute Boylan's personnel files in an effort to discredit her allegations against the governor.
Lever is said to have done so even though she had already started working at Facebook, according to the report.
She worked on Cuomo's staff for six years before joining the social media platform's communications team in August 2020.
The smear campaign against Boylan was launched in December of that year, just hours after she accused Cuomo of harassment. According to the report, Lever also regularly participated in discussions about Cuomo's communications strategy following the allegations.
In relation to Cuomo's denial letter, his staff continued to have misgivings, except for Cuomo ally Steve Cohen, who had said with some edits 'it would be acceptable.'
'Ms. DeRosa reported back to the Governor that Ms. Kaplan and the head of Times Up thought the letter was okay with some changes, as did Mr. Cohen,' the report read, 'but everyone else thought it was a bad idea.'
DeRosa is currently being represented by Kaplan's firm Hecker & Fink LLP in the attorney general's investigation the report notes.
Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa had sought out Kaplan's help in drafting the letter, who in turn consulted with Tchen. Kaplan is now representing DeRosa in the attorney general investigation. Ultimately the letter was never published
Ultimately, the letter was never published, after Cuomo's staff was unable to find enough people willing to sign it, according to James.
'Several people whom the Governor’s advisors asked to sign the letter were uncomfortable with what it said about Ms. Boylan,' she said in her report, adding that one said the letter 'amounted to "victim shaming,"' and another remarked 'This entire thing is castigating her.'
In throwing out the letter, Cuomo in his testimony compared himself to Abraham Lincoln.
'He drew a comparison with Abraham Lincoln’s apparent practice of handwriting a long response to an article that infuriated him and then crumpling up the response and throwing it out,' the report read. 'The Governor testified that, like Lincoln, the writing process was cathartic for him.'
Basinger, the attorney for Boylan said Wednesday that she and her client were 'shocked' that Cuomo's staff would seek the help of women's advocates in their efforts to undermine her accusations.
'We were shocked, just shocked that the people that were asked to protect survivors, the very organizations put in place to help people, were being weaponized against Lindsey,' Basinger said in an interview with the Washington Post. 'She didn’t know there were this many people rooting against her.'
Kaplan responded, saying that her input was that the letter should not in any way shame Boylan.
'While it turns out the response was never published, I made it very clear that any response should never shame an accuser,' she told the Post. 'Given the revelations in the New York Attorney General report, I support and agree with Time’s Up that Governor Cuomo should resign.'
Tchen said she did not remember the particulars of the letter in regards to what she discussed with Kaplan, but denied that she would take part in an effort to discredit an accuser.
'You cannot make any attempt to attack or discredit a person who has come forward with allegations,' she told the outlet. 'Had those parts existed in what was read to me, I would have said, "Do not say that."'
In a statement sent to the Hollywood Reporter Tchen further doubled down on her stance.
'Before any allegations were made against Governor Cuomo, in 2019, Time’s Up worked with his administration to pass the Time’s Up/NY Safety Agenda. In December 2020, Tina was asked to give her perspective on a public response to Ms. Boylan’s allegations,' she told the outlet.
'Although Tina made no recommendations as to what he should do, she shared the stance Time’s Up has always taken in these matters. She was clear that any response coming from the Governor’s office addressing the allegations would be insufficient and unacceptable if it did not acknowledge the experiences of the women who came forward, and that it should in no way shame or discredit the women.'