Around lunchtime on Tuesday, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, was tied up on the phone with her mother, assisting her with household logistics. All week, Burke had been keeping an eye on the fallout from a report by the New York attorney general that found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had harassed nearly a dozen women. But Cuomo had vowed to remain in office, and like most observers, Burke thought he would fight to the death.
Suddenly, Burke’s mother yelled into the phone: “He stepped down!”
Cuomo had announced that he would resign as governor, soon vacating the office he has held for the past 10 years.
With that, the story changed, for Burke and for everyone else.
Until Tuesday, the Cuomo story was in large part about what was not changing — the durability of sexual harassment and the difficulty of addressing it. He allegedly targeted women even as a global reckoning played out under his nose. Two summers ago, Cuomo signed sweeping new protections for women in New York. The next day, he resumed his unwelcome pursuit of a female state trooper, the attorney general’s report said.
Even in the past few years, the highest office in the state seemed like a throwback, according to the report, with unclear pathways for conveying complaints and widespread fear of retaliation. That fear turned out to be founded: After his first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, spoke out in February, his office tried to tarnish her. As more women came forward, Cuomo’s public posture was mostly dismissive, and it wasn’t clear how much New Yorkers cared, either.
Even his resignation speech was somewhat grudging, and he called the investigation biased. “In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn,” Cuomo said yesterday. “There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate.”
But now the Cuomo story demonstrates the durability of the movement. Nearly four years after the revelations about Harvey Weinstein set off a global reckoning — with #MeToo still blazing through the worlds of business, entertainment and sports — a group of mostly young women brought a three-term governor, and heir to a political dynasty, to account.
“I don’t know that we’ve had someone of this prominence step down,” Burke said.
Among the now-vast array of public #MeToo scandals, the political ones are often the most consequential — because of the stakes and symbolism involved — but also the most tortured, because they become so partisan, and often defy neat endings.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings turned into war. Democrats are still arguing over whether former Senator Al Franken should have resigned. Though a long line of women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, those claims seem unlikely to ever reach resolution. Against that backdrop, the Cuomo story stands out because of the consensus among elected Democratic leaders that he could not remain in office.
In New York, what helped make the difference between one outcome and another was the attorney general’s investigation — the kind of painstaking examination that these situations require but almost never get.
“This is what we’ve been asking for,” Anita Hill said in an interview, speaking almost 30 years after she introduced the concept of sexual harassment to many Americans by testifying against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. “We should be looking at this as a model.”
Jodi Kantor is an investigative reporter for The Times who shared a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
The endless pleasures of vegetarian cooking
The world of vegetarian cooking is vast — and a growing number of people are incorporating it into their diets, whether for ethical reasons, health, sustainability or just a love of greens.
A new newsletter by Tejal Rao, the California restaurant critic at The Times, will celebrate vegetables. “I don’t know exactly when my appetite became so intensely focused on vegetarian foods in my own kitchen. It happened slowly, then all at once, like a custard thickening on the stovetop,” she writes. “I revised my food shopping, and my home cooking followed.”
The Veggie, which starts tomorrow, promises to be full of traditional dishes, everyday meals and fun experiments. You can sign up for the first edition here. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
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World Through a Lens
Each year, thousands gather in the Peruvian town of Santo Tomás, dressed in elaborate costumes, ready to fistfight.
The hosts discussed Cuomo.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was dazzling. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Weep (three letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. A hidden haiku from a Times story about swimming with a manta ray in Hawaii: “I tried to race it / and lost, giddy and full of / awe at the sighting.”
A correction: In yesterday’s newsletter, the caption under the top photo gave the wrong location for a shuttered mall in Arizona. It’s in Phoenix, not Glendale.