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GUEST EDITORIAL: When will powerful men like Andrew Cuomo finally get the #MeToo memo?

Los Angeles Times editorial board
A billboard urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign is seen near downtown Albany, New York, on March 2, 2021. The governor is facing calls to resign after three women have come forward accusing him of unwanted advances. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images/TNS)

Facing growing pressure to resign over sexual misconduct allegations, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday instead offered an apology. Of sorts.

"I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable," the Democrat said during a televised news conference. "It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it. And frankly I am embarrassed."

Though he never named the "people" to whom he was referring, Cuomo was clearly speaking of Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett and Anna Ruch. In recent weeks, the three women have publicly accused the three-term governor of unwanted touching, flirting and kissing in various incidents over the last few years. Boylan and Bennett worked with and for the governor; Ruch encountered him at a wedding in 2019, where, she said, he approached her out of the blue and put his hands on her bare lower back and her face (there's a photo), and then kissed her cheek.

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Though expressing contrition for having caused them any pain, Cuomo denied any inappropriate touching. However, he did acknowledge that he regularly greets people with hugs and kisses, which suggests that the governor's definition of "inappropriate" may differ from that of the accusers.

But here's a news flash for Cuomo, and for any other man or woman in a powerful position: Kissing and hugging is not appropriate workplace conduct. Also, it's creepy for men, even famous ones, to touch in intimate ways women they don't know. And if it's tolerated, that may only mean that those subjected to such behavior are intimidated and fear that it would hurt them personally or professionally to object.

In any case, an independent investigation by the New York state attorney general is underway and may ultimately shed light on the veracity of the allegations, which would help New Yorkers decide if Cuomo deserves to continue in office. Even if he doesn't resign — and he said on Wednesday that he won't — and avoids impeachment, Cuomo will have to face the judgment of voters next year as he seeks a fourth term.

But regrettably the investigation won't be able to answer the most perplexing question of all: What will it take for powerful men to finally absorb the lessons of the #MeToo movement?

It has been more than three years since multiple allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein launched a long-overdue national discussion about the routine harassment that women endure in the workplace and the damage it does to their professional and personal lives. The reckoning ruined the reputations of countless powerful men and ended the careers of more than a few of them. Yet, astonishingly, the tales of harassment continue to surface routinely. When will it end?

— From the Los Angeles Times editorial board.