Andrew Cuomo Attempts an Apology

Thom Weidlich 03.04.21


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is under fire. Even fellow Democrats are calling for him to resign amid allegations he made inappropriate sexual advances to at least three women, including two former aides. There’s been much parsing of his “apology,” and who are we not to join in?

Let’s face it — this is a difficult type of crisis to face. No matter what you say in response, the people with the loudest voice — the Twitterati — will declare it’s not good enough. You’re also usually lawyered up and advised not to utter anything that might smell of liability. And what if the governor really believes he’s innocent? Yet the response is usually to defend one’s benign intent.

With regard to that, Cuomo doesn’t break the mold. He hit all the greatest hits of this sort of thing. The main takeaway for communicators is that the governor — not known for being quick with an apology — presents us with what not to say if you want to look like you’re accepting responsibility.

In a statement released Sunday, Feb. 28, Cuomo said he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.” He cited his penchant for “being playful” and making jokes. He went on and on about how he’s famous for teasing people (all in good fun!). He means “no offense.” “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody,” he wrote.

He now admits he may have acted in a way that was “insensitive or too personal” and interpreted in a manner that wasn’t, well, intended. He writes, “To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.” Again, that puts the onus on the recipient of one’s playfulness.

Earlier Statement

Sunday’s statement was a change in tone from one Cuomo had issued the day before. That was in response to allegations from the second former aide, who said he, among other things, asked about her sex life. In the statement, the governor didn’t even attempt an apology — it was a flat-out denial.

He unwisely said he would comment no further until the review was completed. Of course, he commented again the next day. This is akin to saying you never comment on litigation and then going back on your word when it suits you. Cuomo also addressed the issue during a press conference yesterday (pictured) in which he said many of the same things as Sunday’s statement, but added that he wouldn’t resign.

All this comes at a tough time for the politician. He faces another crisis in which he’s accused of underreporting the number of coronavirus deaths at nursing homes. This was especially bad because he was generally celebrated (too much, in our view) for his communications during the early stages of the pandemic. He even won an Emmy for it in November, which people are now saying should be yanked.

In the middle of dealing with the health emergency, he even published a book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic, in which he lauds his own communications. “It still amazes and heartens me that people just wanted the truth, competence and confidence from their leaders,” he wrote.

They still do.

Photo Credit: Governor Cuomo’s office via YouTube

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