As a biographer, Michael Shnayerson has spent years diving deep into the life of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. What he recounts for Vanity Fair is a past filled with alleged cheap shots, bullying and even abuse.
When Cuomo and his ex-wife Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, were in the process of getting a divorce, a source close to the Kennedy family told Shnayerson that there were “instances of physical abuse.” The author also writes that Kennedy repeatedly slept in a locked bathroom during the period where her soon-to-be ex-husband still lived in the family home.
“I’ve been a human rights activist, and for women who have abusive husbands,” Kerry reportedly told a friend, “and here I am enduring this abuse.”
Asked to comment on the abuse allegations, a Cuomo spokesman told Vanity Fair: “The divorce was over 15 years ago and was tabloid fodder for weeks with all sorts of untrue rumors circulating. Time has proven them all false. Andrew is a great father, and his daughters will be the first to say that Kerry and Andrew have been great co-parents—and time showed those who spread the rumors were actually the problem.”
Kennedy’s eight siblings had given up on Cuomo before the divorce, however. “We tried to be gracious, but … it turned on his lack of humanity. That’s where I started to think, This is a bad guy. He’s just a bully,” one Kennedy sibling told Shnayerson.
While serving as assistant secretary at Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Cuomo was known to hammer those who weren’t a part of his tight inner circle behind their backs. He allegedly called older civil service staffers “white heads” (deriding their hair color as a sign of their advanced age) or “f–kheads” or “dumb f–ks.”
Cuomo was known to rule with the tough-guy persona even at HUD. “I’ve dealt with a lot of macho guys in my family,” one staffer told Shnayerson. “I can spot them a million miles away. I was just surprised that someone like that had gotten to be secretary.”
The abuse continued when Cuomo, the son and former aide to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, returned from Washington to New York.
“If you were unprepared, if you could not answer his questions, he looked at you like you were a moron,” one staffer from Cuomo’s time as attorney general of New York told Shnayerson. “He might not criticize you to your face … but he would rap you when you left the room. When you’re a bully, you insult people to their faces. This was to the back.”
He reportedly called New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli “Chipmunk Balls” and mocked his then-attorney general Eric Schneiderman for looking like he had makeup on, making his eyelashes glossy and thick. It turned out Schneiderman had an eye condition requiring him to use eye drops.
Shnayerson also tells a story of a time in 2012 when he was writing a biography on the Democratic governor. Cuomo at the time was also writing a book, “All Things Possible.”
Cuomo, who had been in office for about a year and agreed to a sit-down interview with Shnayerson if the biographer agreed to delay publishing until after Cuomo’s book was released. Shnayerson obliged and Cuomo’s book came out, but the governor “pulled a fast one” and never gave Shnayerson the interview.
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