A South Florida woman is the seventh to step forward to accuse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Her allegation comes amid a growing call from several high-profile Democrats demanding that Cuomo resign — an action the governor steadfastly refuses to do — as women have come forward with their stories.
In a frank essay written for New York magazine, “Cuomo never let me forget I was a woman,” Jessica Bakeman, who is currently a K-12 and higher education reporter for WLRN, South Florida’s NPR affiliate and a Miami Herald news partner, recounts a series of improprieties she alleges happened over a period between 2012 and 2014.
Bakeman was 25 and working as a statehouse reporter for what is now Politico New York, she says in the article. This gave her close proximity to Cuomo, who has denied touching anyone inappropriately, the Associated Press reported.
“I never meant to make anyone feel any uncomfortable,” Cuomo has said.
But Bakeman, who has previously written for the Star Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and Gannett, according to MEAWW News, recounts a different experience in the New York Intelligencer feature.
“Andrew Cuomo’s hands had been on my body — on my arms, my shoulders, the small of my back, my waist — often enough by late 2014 that I didn’t want to go to the holiday party he was hosting for the Albany press corps at the executive mansion,” her essay opens.
But it was her job as a reporter to attend, she said.
At the event, at the Capitol, she said Cuomo, a Democrat now in his third term as New York governor, took her hand, “as if to shake it,” but would not let go and put his other arm around Bakeman’s back, his other hand on her waist and held her firmly, and indicated to a photographer he wanted a posed photo with her.
“My job was to analyze and scrutinize him. I didn’t want a photo of him with his hands on my body and a smile on my face. But I made the reflexive assessment that most women and marginalized people know instinctively, the calculation about risk and power and self-preservation. I knew it would be far easier to smile for the brief moment it takes to snap a picture than to challenge one of the most powerful men in the country,” she wrote.
Bakeman, a summa cum laude graduate from the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, alleges that Cuomo said in front of her colleagues, “I’m sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady.”
Bakeman said she was humiliated. “But, of course, that was the point,” she wrote. “I never thought the governor wanted to have sex with me. It wasn’t about sex. It was about power. He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve what relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions. He wanted me to know that he could take my dignity away at any moment with an inappropriate comment or a hand on my waist.”
The Miami Herald reached out to Bakeman but she declined to be interviewed. “Thanks for reaching out, but I decided not to do media interviews. I want the essay to speak for itself,” she said.
Bakeman did direct the Herald to her Twitter feed.
There, on Friday, Bakeman commented on the reaction Friday’s New York Intelligencer article had generated.
“The vast majority of messages I have gotten today are from other women telling me that reading my essay was like reading their own diaries,” she posted. “If you don’t recognize sexual harassment in your own life or workplace, it’s well past time to start. And to do something about it,” Bakeman posted.
The vast majority of messages I have gotten today are from other women telling me that reading my essay was like reading their own diaries. If you don’t recognize sexual harassment in your own life or workplace, it’s well past time to start. And to do something about it.
— Jessica Bakeman (@jessicabakeman) March 12, 2021
Alicia Zuckerman, editorial director at WLRN, said of her colleague stepping forward, “I see a lot of women nodding reading this. Honest, *power*ful essay by my colleague.”
Critical point here: “It wasn’t about sex. It was about power. He wanted me to know that … I did not deserve what relative power I had.” I see a lot of women nodding reading this. Honest, *power*ful essay by my colleague @jessicabakeman https://t.co/W8S1hIin6G
— Alicia Zuckerman (@AliciaZuckerman) March 12, 2021
“I lived in Tallahassee when you moved to Florida. I remember when I started hearing you on NPR. I’ve come to recognize the strength and competence in your voice since that time. It comes through in what you do. Thank you for making the decision to speak out,” posted Patience Burke.
I lived in Tallahassee when you moved to Florida. I remember when I started hearing you on NPR. I’ve come to recognize the strength and competence in your voice since that time. It comes through in what you do.
Thank you for making the decision to speak out.
— Patience Burke (@TameTheGorilla) March 13, 2021
“Today I am extra exhausted by well-meaning cis men saying ‘wow I had no idea it was that bad’ in response to all the stories women are sharing about harassment and assault. I don’t understand how you have ‘no idea’ at this point. Do you keep forgetting?,” wondered author Sarah Hollowell.
today I am extra exhausted by well-meaning cis men saying “wow I had no idea it was that bad” in response to all the stories women are sharing about harassment and assault
I don’t understand how you have “no idea” at this point. do you keep forgetting?
— Sarah Hollowell (@sarahhollowell) March 12, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at the National Press Club in Washington.
Cuomo, 63, has not publicly addressed Bakeman’s allegations. But at a news conference Friday, “Cuomo generally denied new allegations and urged the public to ‘wait for the facts,’” CNN reported.
“Women have a right to come forward and be heard,” Cuomo said at the news conference. “I did not do what has been alleged, period.”