Lis Smith is a political consultant who worked on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign and then, in 2020, took a job working for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That job gave her a front row seat to Cuomo’s decline and she now has a book coming out which details some of what she heard and saw leading up to Cuomo’s final days. Today, Politico Magazine published an excerpt from the book. While the general outlines of the story will already be familiar, some of the details are new. As Smith tells the story, Gov. Cuomo was his own worst enemy, always eager to attack his accusers and unwilling to accept any blame himself.

Smith joined Cuomo’s team of advisers when he was still on the way up, but the hype quickly got out of hand. He signed the book deal with Random House at the height of his popularity only to have it come back to bite him later when it turned out New York had the worst early pandemic numbers of any state. And then there was the related crisis over his decision to return elderly COVID patients to nursing homes.

The crisis reached a nadir at a January press briefing during which Cuomo was confronted about the undercount. Visibly bristling, he declared: “Look, whether a person died in a hospital or died in a nursing home, the people died. … Who cares?”

“Who cares” are two words that should never come out of a politician’s mouth. Especially when it has to do with people dying.

America’s governor was quickly turning into America’s asshole. And like most assholes, he’d soon get a wake-up call. Except in his case, it was more like an air raid siren.

In Feb. 2021, Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment by Lindsay Boylan. Cuomo denied everything and told his advisers there were no other shoes waiting to drop. But a month later the NY Times published more allegations by 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett. Behind the scenes, Cuomo continued to deny having done anything wrong. After some consideration, it was decided that he would ride the storm out the way Gov. Northam of Virginia had survived his blackface scandal.

The decision was made. Cuomo would “Northam it.” He called for due process and authorized the New York attorney general’s office to conduct an independent investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.

The Governor held a press conference during which he once again denied everything both to the public and, in the prep sessions, to his staff. But a week later there was yet another allegation, this time involving claims of groping a woman at the executive mansion. And now Cuomo was getting desperate and eager to lash out at his accusers.

He wanted to come out guns a-blazing against the accusations. “Bad Andrew” — as staff privately called him when he got into his darkest moods — was making a comeback.

He wanted to accuse his accuser of having financial motivations. He wanted to expose her for hiring a notorious Albany-area ambulance chaser. He wanted to go after her character head-on…

According to Smith it was ultimately Andrew’s brother Chris Cuomo who talked him down and convinced him not to go on the attack. Once again, Gov. Cuomo gave a speech denying everything.

Finally, in July Cuomo was interviewed by the AG’s investigators and came away thinking the final report was going to add nothing to the allegations against him. Nevertheless, his plan, once again, was to go on the attack against the AG’s office.

He wanted to map out a prebuttal to the AG report, which he assured us would be an underwhelming document. On the docket? A letter from his attorneys contesting the objectivity of the investigators and a video, whose script he’d written out himself — a script that clocked in at over 12 minutes. It was vintage “Bad Andrew.”

The letter, which I suspect wasn’t drafted by his lawyers, included ad hominem attacks against the AG’s investigators and the previous U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York. “Diary of a Psychopath” is how I described it to another adviser.

The video script, if possible, was even worse. It included a long section that he intended as a photo montage, where he’d show photo after photo of him kissing people of all ages, races, sexualities and genders on the face. “Governor, you should not do this,” I told him. “Unless you want this video to be mocked and replayed on the late-night shows.”

But as it turned out the AG report was a lot more devastating for Cuomo than he’d predicted. After the results were announced, Cuomo gathered his advisers and for the 3rd or 4th time denied everything. “The difference this time was that no one around him believed him anymore, myself included,” Smith writes.

Cuomo was a wolf who kept crying sheep until no one believed him. In the end, none of his advisers could see a way out. The only sympathetic ear he had in those final days, according to Smith, was former president Bill Clinton who advised him to make his case directly to the people of New York. When your last friend after a sexual harassment scandal is Slick Willie, it really is time to hang it up.

Smith uses the word “psychopath” in her narrative as a bit of hyperbole. She’s not actually claiming Cuomo is a psychopath. On the contrary, she says she also saw a warm and caring side of his personality. But reading her account you have to wonder. It really does take a special kind of person to lie to everyone around them not once, not twice, but repeatedly and without shame. Psychopathic traits don’t exist as a binary (where you either are or aren’t) they exist on a continuum. If you read Smith’s full account, you come away thinking Cuomo would probably score pretty high on a test for psychopathic traits. Either that or he’s just very delusional about his own behavior.

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