When New York Gov.
began facing calls to resign over allegations of sexual harassment, billboard messages, rallies and social-media posts suddenly appeared in support of him.
The reason: die-hard Cuomo fans who have joined forces in several Facebook groups to strategize ways to show their support for the governor. One of the biggest is “Women for Governor Cuomo,” a private fan club of about 1,100 members who are mostly women over age 55. One of its members has even earned thanks from the governor for her efforts of support.
Some of the women have urged followers in the private group to call state officials, respond to Mr. Cuomo’s accusers and rivals on Twitter, attend rallies and contribute thousands of dollars for pro-Cuomo advertising. Those include banners flown over New York beaches and a billboard ad on a highway in Albany. Others have attacked on social media the former Cuomo aides who have accused him of sexual harassment.
Some members said in the group that they were flooding an official hotline that was set up for tipsters by lawyers working for the state Assembly impeachment committee and leaving positive messages about the governor.
New York state Assemblyman
who oversees the chamber’s impeachment probe, declined to comment about messages that investigators have received.
While the women press on different fronts, many of them have talked, planned and relayed their activities in the Facebook group that started after Mr. Cuomo began facing calls for his resignation earlier this year.
“Support for the governor is what brought us all together,” said
a moderator for the Facebook group she named “Women for Governor Cuomo” and treasurer of a smaller group of women raising money to support the governor.
Mr. Cuomo has been depending on such public support to ward off calls for his resignation by some of the state’s top Democratic lawmakers, including fellow Sens.
and U.S. Rep.
As he’s been left politically isolated, he and his inner circle have seized public support and polls showing a slight majority of New York voters say he shouldn’t resign. His biggest support is among Black voters and New Yorkers aged 55 and older, polls show.
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In the “Women for Governor Cuomo” group, nearly 70% of the women are aged 55 and older, according to Facebook data provided by the group’s moderators.
Five current and former aides have accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in the workplace. One current aide accused Mr. Cuomo of groping her in the governor’s executive mansion last year. A former aide,
said when she worked in the governor’s office Mr. Cuomo called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk.
The governor has denied allegations of inappropriate touching and apologized if his behavior offended anyone. Mr. Cuomo has asked New Yorkers to withhold judgment until an independent review overseen by state Attorney General
is completed. Nearly two dozen Democratic women in the state Assembly have signed a letter saying that Ms. James’s office should be given space to complete its investigation.
Federal prosecutors are also examining the state’s policies regarding Covid-19 in nursing homes.
Ms. Morley said Mr. Cuomo is aware of the women’s efforts. Last month, one group member posted on the group’s Facebook page a letter from Mr. Cuomo thanking her for her support. “Please be sure to pass along my sincere gratitude to other members of your group,” the letter said.
a senior adviser for the governor, didn’t dispute the veracity of the letter. He said Mr. Cuomo’s campaign sends many such letters, and the governor, his campaign and his aides aren’t involved in nor have they funded the women’s activities.
“The people of this great state know [the governor] works night and day for them and—while we believe that negative discourse should be discouraged on every side—to the extent there are those outwardly supportive of our efforts, we appreciate it and thank them,” Mr. Azzopardi said.
Ms. Morley, a 41-year-old theater director who lives outside of Buffalo, said many people in the “Women for Governor Cuomo” group believe the allegations of sexual harassment against the governor are politically motivated. She said she and other moderators don’t condone all the activities in the Facebook group, including the coordination of some Twitter responses to accusers. “What I’ve told them is if they want to do that, to not be a jerk, because then it’s going to make us look bad,” she said.
While some of the group members question the validity of claims made by Mr. Cuomo’s accusers, others say the actions don’t constitute an impeachable offense.
68, another moderator in the Facebook group, said there were no clear rules for sexual harassment when she was a marketing professional out in the field. “There’s nothing that an HR professional couldn’t have handled,” she said of the allegations against Mr. Cuomo. “One of the things they said was he gave everyone roses on Valentine’s Day. I think that’s a great thing.”
Ms. Morley said she believes kissing on the hands and cheeks is customary in some cultures. “It’s nothing new,” she said.
Ms. Morley said she started the Facebook group about a month ago after a man in another pro-Cuomo group suggested that an all-female group would show a more powerful message of support for the governor. In the past few weeks, at least two other groups have been formed on Facebook to support Mr. Cuomo, and many women have multiple group memberships.
The women’s group isn’t entirely about activism. For some, it is a fan club. They rave about Mr. Cuomo’s leadership and share edited pictures of the governor with special effects, including hearts and sparkles. “Love seeing the sun in his face,” wrote one woman, who posted pictures of Mr. Cuomo speaking at a recent outdoor news conference.
Ms. Morley said a core committee of about 10 women—including several with political experience—has been focused on Mr. Cuomo’s battle. Weekly, they meet on Zoom to strategize about fundraising and where to focus their efforts. They arrange virtual parties to call statewide officials and to delegate tasks to different group members.
Members of the women’s group contributed donations through multiple crowdsourcing websites for billboard messages and aerial banners in support of the governor. At least $30,000 has been raised, and some of the donors are listed as anonymous, including for donations in the thousands of dollars.
Ms. Morley said the group has consulted a lawyer and an accountant to help set up a committee registered with the state Board of Elections that will formally raise more funds—a decision that caused some members to recently split off who preferred to avoid the red tape of something so official.
Ms. Behan, a Rochester resident doing marketing for the committee, said the new group, We Decide New York, plans to buy billboards and warn state political leaders seeking Mr. Cuomo’s resignation that they risk losing voters. “We are asking them to step back,” she said.
Last month, some members of the “Women for Governor Cuomo” Facebook group began a Twitter campaign to attack
the first woman to publicly accuse Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment in the workplace. One draft of a tweet shared in the group and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal compared Ms. Boylan to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congresswoman from Georgia known for her support of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. In another tweet, the group member accused Ms. Boylan of dressing a certain way to get Mr. Cuomo’s attention. Several members boasted in posts to the Facebook group that they had been blocked by Ms. Boylan on Twitter.
“Online attacks like the ones I’ve received perpetuate a culture that makes it difficult for survivors to talk about the harassment and abuse they’ve experienced,” Ms. Boylan said in a statement. “We should hold our leaders accountable for their abuses rather than tear down those who have the courage to speak truth to power.”
On a recent Saturday morning, a group of around 30 people—mostly women in their 50s, 60s and 70s—gathered at a rally in front of the governor’s office in Manhattan—one of a number of events that a member posted in the Facebook group.
a Brooklyn resident who attended the rally, said she found out about the gathering from a post on Twitter. “He fought Donald Trump for us,” the 61-year-old said of Mr. Cuomo. “What they’re doing to him is sickening.”
president of the New York state NAACP, whose appearance at the rally was advertised on a digital poster, said she was invited to speak at the event by a group of women she met at an earlier rally.
Ms. Dukes discussed the importance of due process at the rally—a theme of Mr. Cuomo’s defense that his supporters have echoed. “The investigation is going on,” she said in an interview. “Let them do their work, and then the chips will fall where they may.”
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