Two of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top female aides are leaving the administration as the governor faces fallout over the coronavirus pandemic and sexual misconduct allegations from two former staffers and a third woman.
The departing officials are press secretary Caitlin Girouard and interim policy adviser Erin Hammond – and although their exits come as the governor faces calls for his resignation, both had been planned in advance, officials said.
Girouard, notably, is the spokeswoman who sent out a statement last week denying the sexual harassment allegations former staffer Lindsey Boylan leveled against Cuomo in a Medium essay.
In a statement, she told Fox News Friday that her departure had been planned for more than a month. She said she accepted a private sector job offer on Jan. 26.
“While I’m saddened to announce Friday is my last day in the Administration, I will always remain a supporter from afar, wishing my colleagues all the success in the world as they continue fighting COVID and building a better future for New Yorkers,” she said.
She called the two and a half years she spent working for Cuomo “the honor of a lifetime.”
The governor’s communications director had equal praise for the departing press secretary.
“Caitlin is a world-class, top-flight communications professional who is well respected in New York, Washington and beyond,” Peter Ajemian said in a statement. “She’s been a real rock for our press shop, especially during the past year fighting the pandemic, and we wish her nothing but the best in her next chapter.”
In a statement, senior Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said Hammond’s exit had “been planned for several months” and would allow her to focus on her family. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
Boylan, currently a candidate for Manhattan borough president, did not respond to a request for comment. She has accused the governor of inviting her to “play strip poker” on a work-related flight in 2017, showing her a cigar box he said was a gift from Bill Clinton and kissing her on the lips without permission.
Charlotte Bennett, another former aide who has accused the governor of workplace harassment, called him a “textbook abuser” in an interview with CBS News Thursday evening and dismissed his attempt at an apology.
A third woman, Anna Ruch, accused Cuomo of making unwanted advances, touching her exposed lower back and asking if he could kiss her. That allegedly happened at a 2019 wedding reception. She had no professional ties to the governor.
Even with the departures planned before the three women went public with their allegations, the governor has for months been facing criticism over his pandemic response – in particular a March directive that sent coronavirus-positive patients into the state’s nursing homes.
The administration early Friday morning said that advisory “was not a driver of nursing home deaths.”
But the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell report Thursday evening alleging that top Cuomo administration advisers had pressured state health officials to underreport nursing home COVID-19 deaths for months.
Once a full accounting became public, the death toll skyrocketed from roughly 6,400 to more than 15,000.
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