If Tylenol is the textbook example of how to handle a crisis, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to a report detailing years of sexual harassment and abuse of power may well become the “How Not To” chapter. Let’s look at what he did wrong.
Cuomo didn’t face the situation head-on. Rather than speak publicly, he put out a canned video, already a violation of the “show strength and assertiveness” part of crisis response.
Don’t Reinforce a Negative Image
The video itself was disastrous. As Cuomo droned on, we saw pictures and clips of him kissing and hugging and touching other people. His point was to say, “This is just my normal way of greeting people or showing affection.”
Instead, it comes across as even more creepy, reinforcing the image of the governor as a serial groper.
If you were handling BP during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, would you show pictures of other environmental calamities to try to say, “It’s no big deal, it’s just what we do.”
Not to mention, it takes just one enterprising reporter to track down someone in that video who says, “Yeah, I felt pretty uncomfortable the whole time.”
Cuomo then took probably the most poignant and highest profile complaint against him, that from a sexual assault victim. He then tried to use that as an example of how his actions were misunderstood because he was just trying to help. I mean, if you were going to mention anybody BY NAME, why choose THE most sympathetic person in the entire report?
But Cuomo didn’t just try to mansplain his way out of it. He blamed Ms. Bennet for not seeing his true intent. He also seemed to out a member of his own family as a survivor of sexual assault. He claimed that experience made him uniquely qualified to “help” Ms. Bennet. Thankfully, he didn’t blurt out this family member’s name, but he’s all but invited the media to go dig up that horrifying experience.
Cuomo blamed everybody but himself for his actions: the women misunderstood his intentions; it’s just a cultural thing, the way he shows affection; people just misconstrued his gregarious and affectionate matter.
Don’t Blame Your Mother
OK, so maybe that’s not a real rule. But Cuomo actually did essentially say that it’s his mom’s fault for raising him this way!
Look, Cuomo is facing impeachment and possible criminal charges, and he’ll almost certainly be sued, so maybe there is no good defense. But he certainly went of his way to come up with the worst one.