Cuomo dubbed top aide and her allies ‘mean girls’ who fostered ‘toxic work environment’
Andrew Cuomo described his top aide Melissa DeRosa as a ‘mean girl’, according to the New York attorney general’s report, which detailed the ‘toxic’ work environment created by the governor and his feared advisor.
Known for her fierce loyalty to her boss, DeRosa, 38, has worked for Cuomo since 2013, and became a familiar face during the pandemic as she sat almost daily at Cuomo’s side.
Letitia James’s report into claims made by 11 women of sexual harassment painted a darker picture of DeRosa’s role, however.
She worked to discredit several of the women, according to James’s report, and was accused in the document of ‘unlawful retaliation’.
DeRosa is accused in the 168-page document as helping to cultivate a ‘toxic’ workplace for young female staffers.
Melissa DeRosa is pictured with her boss, Andrew Cuomo, after meeting Donald Trump, the president-elect, in January 2017. DeRosa featured heavily in Tuesday’s report into allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo by 11 women
‘She can be very tough to deal with,’ a source told The New York Post.
‘DeRosa is feared. If you cross her, you’re crossing the governor.’
Cuomo himself nicknamed her and others within the inner circle ‘mean girls’, the report said – although he denied the moniker. She asked him to stop.
DeRosa was previously acting chief of staff for the former attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, who in 2018 resigned after multiple women accused him of sexual violence.
When the allegations against Cuomo began to emerge this spring, DeRosa played a key role in trying to limit the damage.
The pair were known to be close: pictures emerged earlier this year showing Cuomo, now 63, and DeRosa, 38, enjoying an intimate dinner in the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in Lower Manhattan on September 8, 2016.
Cuomo and DeRosa were pictured having a cosy dinner in September 2016 – shortly after she had married his former spokesman, Matthew Wing. He appeared at one point (pictured) to have his hand resting on her leg
DeRosa has worked for Cuomo since 2013 and is one of his closest allies and staunchest defenders
DeRosa is pictured with her husband, Matthew Wing, who is a communications chief for Uber
DeRosa had married former Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing just 12 days earlier on August 27.
At the time Cuomo was in a long-term relationship with celebrity chef Sandra Lee. They were living together in her sprawling home in Mt. Kisco, New York until they eventually split in 2019.
Cuomo in 2020 began telling his staff that he was lonely and wanted another girlfriend.
When Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old health policy adviser, reported Cuomo’s deeply uncomfortable probing of her sexual history and previous abuse, DeRosa and other top aides – including counsel Judith Mogul and former chief of staff Jill Des Rosiers – dragged their feet on acting on her concerns.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, said she saw Cuomo as a mentor – but felt that he was aggressively pursuing her sexually
Bennett worked as a public health policy advisor. She reported her concerns to his senior staff, but, according to James’s report, the team dragged their heels on helping her
The should immediately, under state law, have passed her complaints to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations.
After Bennett came forward with her allegations, the Executive Chamber instituted ‘changes in staffing’ so that ‘they would avoid situations where the Governor might be seen as being in a compromising situation with any woman.’
But DeRosa and Mogul apparently described the change as ‘really more for the Governor’s protection.’
DeRosa was reportedly furious with Cuomo for his behavior towards Bennett.
The pair were in a car, and DeRosa berated him, saying: ‘I can’t believe that this happened. I can’t believe you put yourself in a situation where you would be having any version of this conversation.’
She then got out when the car stopped at a traffic light.
Lindsay Boylan was one of the first women to publicly accuse Cuomo of harassment
When Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development official, began tweeting allusion to harassment in 2020 – she would not make a full, public allegation until March of this year – DeRosa released Boylan’s personnel record to certain media outlets.
DeRosa admitted the move to discredit Boylan when speaking to James’s team, and said that she made the decision because Boylan’s tweets about the governor — including that he was ‘one of the biggest abusers of all time’ — became ‘more and more escalating,’ the report states.
Former aide Josh Vlasto told the investigators that if DeRosa decided to leak the files, it was ‘safe to say’ the move ‘was consistent with what the Governor wanted or had been discussed with him and he approved it.’
A current aide – who has since accused Cuomo of groping her – told James’s team she saw the efforts as a way to discredit Boylan, by calling her ‘crazy’ and accusing her of having a political agenda, according to the report.
DeRosa also played a part in circulating a proposed op-ed, originally drafted by Cuomo, that contained ‘personal and professional attacks’ on Boylan, and later sharing it with current and former Executive Chamber employees.
‘The draft letter or op-ed attacking Ms. Boylan — particularly when combined with the release of the confidential internal records to the press — constitutes retaliation,’ the investigators wrote.
DeRosa is seen with Cuomo in April 2020, and was almost daily by his side during the televised press briefings
Another former employee was asked by DeRosa to call a current staff member – known as ‘Kaitlin’, who also accused Cuomo of harassment – and record the call, asking if she was working with Boylan or if she ‘had her own allegations against the Governor or was talking to reporters.’
And when a state trooper made allegations against Cuomo, DeRosa, who serves as Cuomo’s Chairwoman of the New York State Council on Women & Girls, tried to bury them and convince a newspaper editor not to publish them.
A reporter from The Albany Times-Union called requesting comment on the state trooper’s allegations, and DeRosa yelled at the newspaper’s editor saying, ‘You guys are trying to reduce her hiring to being about looks. That’s what men do.’
DeRosa’s attorney declined comment.
In a statement, Azzopardi, Cuomo’s communications director, said: ‘The report does not single out Melissa and suggestions otherwise are factually inaccurate.’