The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

It’s Wednesday, August 4th, 2021.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

He Must Go: A Devastating Report from NY Attorney General Pulls No Punches, New York’s Governor is a National Embarrassment

There is one and only one major lead story all across the United States today, and ground zero is the state of New York where the state’s incumbent Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo had the announcement come yesterday that the state’s Attorney General was basically accusing him on the basis of a voluminous amount of evidence and an official state investigation of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other misbehavior that should lead him to resign from office, and should he not resign, to be removed from office by the state’s legislature, the Assembly. It was big news. It was expected news. It was so expected that by the time the announcement came yesterday, there had been leaks over the course of the last several days of just how bad the report was going to be.

Still, it is hard to overestimate how bad this report is. We’re talking about 165 pages, not only of allegations, but of evidence. We’re not just talking about a few women making these charges, but many. We’re not just talking about what might be described, or even there might be an attempt to excuse in the mainstream culture, about isolated incidents, about misinterpreted actions. Nope, that’s not what was documented. That is not what was released in this report. By the time the day ended yesterday, the president of the United States, of Governor Cuomo’s own party, was calling on him to resign. Even before that, the President had indicated not only that the Governor should be removed from office if such a report should be released, but it was likely that he would also face criminal prosecution, and that’s right.

We’re going to be looking at four different dimensions of the story. First of all, the announcement, then the story behind Andrew Cuomo, then the political context right now and in the immediate future, and then the issues of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misbehavior, and how we should think about that, particularly when the accusations are made against someone in a powerful position, in particular, a man or men in powerful positions.

Let’s back up, number one, the announcement itself. The report in the Washington Post got right to the point when the reporters tell us, “The findings mark a new low for a once celebrated democratic star who won an Emmy in 2020 for his nationally televised briefings during the pandemic, appeared on track for re-election to a fourth term in 2022, and was frequently discussed as a Presidential contender. He is now isolated from his own party’s leadership, the result of a months-long investigation,” said the paper, “that was based on interviews with 179 individuals, including women who accused the Governor of misconduct, Cuomo himself, and a coterie of his top advisors.”

Now, if this was about any major politician in the United States, it would be big news, but it’s not just about any politician. It’s about Andrew Cuomo, the crown prince of the Cuomo dynasty and a three-term Governor of the state of New York, who was trying to vindicate his father’s political record by being elected to a fourth term that was denied his father. Ever since he was a very young man, Andrew Cuomo has been known for his political ambition, that is his personal ambition, and also for the fact that he was quite ready, even very early, to play hard ball in politics on behalf of his father. It was often asserted that his father, Mario Cuomo played the good cop and Andrew Cuomo, his son, played the bad cop in the political equation, but it turns out the bad in this case was a lot worse than anyone had imagined.

Andrew Cuomo had already attracted a great deal of political hatred. One of the things we should note, by the way, is that the constitutional office of Governor of New York state is a very, very powerful political office. That’s not just because of the size and stature and population of New York. It’s also because of the fact that different states invest different levels of executive authority in Governors. In New York, it is a great deal of authority. Furthermore, just consider the fact that the Cuomos together, father and son, were elected to three terms as Governor of New York. That means we really are looking at a dynasty.

The report is devastating, devastating in every way, so devastating that by the end of the day yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the leader of the Democratic majority in the United States Senate, the leaders of the state Assembly there in New York, and the president of the United States among others had called for the governor to resign. The New York Times Editorial Board had done the same thing. Just about every other major media or political authority is likely to do the same thing.

One of the things that’s most important is to recognize that all of those I mentioned who have gone on the record to call for Cuomo’s resignation are of the same party. Now, that tells us a lot, but we’ll get to that in just a moment. The report, again 165 pages, undertaken on behalf of the state through the authority of the state’s Attorney General Latisha James and by seasoned criminal investigators, is indeed ample documentation of the fact that Andrew Cuomo was a serial assaulter, a serial sexual offender. Also, we should note by late last night, legal authorities in criminal law had made very clear that at the local, the state, and the national level, it is likely that the New York Governor has committed criminal acts and criminal prosecution at some level, if not all levels, is almost sure to follow.

We need to also keep in mind that this report came on the heels of the state’s Attorney General some time ago, just in the last several weeks, accusing the governor of intentionally misrepresenting figures concerning the deaths of the elderly in nursing homes in New York. That in the midst of the fact that he was being celebrated for what he and others in the media, including as we shall see, his brother, had celebrated as his stellar leadership. Remember, he was given an Emmy for his press conferences, his daily conferences on COVID there in the state of New York. An Emmy. That also means something. We’ll talk about that in just a moment, but the fact is, we’re talking about someone who has been piling up political enemies all his life, and it looks like that pile is now falling on him.

Part II

A Dynasty Undone: From Mario Cuomo To the Machiavellian Raw Politics and Immorality of Andrew Cuomo

Now we need to turn from the report and from the developments that have taken place just in the last several hours and look at the background, that is the story behind Andrew Cuomo. As I said, he is the second Cuomo to serve as Governor, to be elected to three terms. His father was Mario Cuomo who was first elected to office as New York state’s governor. Taking office in 1983, he would serve until 1994. What you need to know is that Mario Cuomo, the father who came from a very, very blue collar background in Queens, was seeking to establish in the Democratic party a successor dynasty to the Kennedys from a very different pedigree, at least in the late 20th century.

For many of the years that he served as governor there in Albany, Mario Cuomo was considered the most influential and the most admirable Democrat on the national scene. He was perhaps the last Democratic governor of New York to be really seen as a national contender. As the Democrats headed towards the 1992 presidential election cycle, Mario Cuomo was at one point 20 points ahead of any other likely Democratic candidate for president, and he was just about neck and neck in polls with the then incumbent president of the United States, the Republican 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

Mario Cuomo didn’t end up running. In a fascinating tale that basically comes down to something like it was made for a movie, as the December 20th filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary, that crucial early primary for the Democrats approached, Mario Cuomo actually kept an airplane on the tarmac with engines revving up so at the last minute he could get on the plane, go to New Hampshire in person, and file. He didn’t. That by the way, created the opening for the little known if not almost totally unknown Governor of the state of Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, better known as Bill Clinton, to take the mantle of the Democratic Party instead and of course, go on to win the 1992 presidential election.

One of the things we need to note is that the father, Mario Cuomo, was in many ways, the liberal lion of the Democratic Party. That fit New York state politics. Mario Cuomo was at least in his own eyes, something of an extension of the big government liberalism of Democratic Presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who we should note had also served as the governor of the state of New York. Mario Cuomo as Governor saw himself and was seen by many others in the Democratic Party as the keeper of the liberal flame. He was the subject and the object of so many hopes in the democratic party, but he was not to run at the national level. He wants to dominate New York politics until he didn’t. He was expected to coast to an easy election, to a fourth term, but New York voters had a different idea and he wasn’t.

George Pataki, the Republican challenger, defeated him. He was denied the fourth term. Now remember, even in recent days, Andrew Cuomo under such clouds of corruption and scandal, has indicated, indeed insisted that he intends to run next year for a fourth term to vindicate not only himself, but his father. That appears to be a rather futile hope now, but then again, politics being what it is, we will see.

Speaking of the father, Mario Cuomo, there’s another extremely important issue at the intersection of politics and the Christian worldview. Mario Cuomo, and Andrew Cuomo, but particularly Mario Cuomo was known as a Catholic. He ran as a Catholic. He identified as a Catholic. He used Catholic culture and Catholic connections. He was famously or infamously invited in the year 1984 to give a major speech as a democratic politician at the very institution that represents American Catholicism, the University of Notre Dame.

In that address in 1984, Mario Cuomo, an ardent defender of abortion rights, sought to set out the way that a Catholic politician could operate at the political level with one set of moral principles and claim in his personal life or her personal life to believe a completely different system of morality. This would bifurcation, this two level understanding was absolutely denied as authentic by the Catholic bishops. The University of Notre Dame found itself facing an incredible amount of criticism for providing the platform for Mario Cuomo to suggest what amounted to a way for politicians to claim a Catholic identity, even something like as we’ve seen even this week, what’s claimed to be a devout Catholic identity, while operating the political sphere in ways that are absolutely contradictory, especially on the issue of the sanctity of human life. Mario Cuomo simply paved the way in that address for later Democrats to claim that Catholic identity or others, even to claim some kind of Christian identity while, in their political decisions and by their political leadership, subverting those very moral truths.

As interesting as that is and important in American political history, just consider the fact that Andrew Cuomo, the son, has never appeared to claim anything like any kind of traditional religious identity or even Catholic identity. Certainly, when it came to some kind of Catholic lifestyle, at one point, the Kennedy and Cuomo dynasties came together as Andrew Cuomo married a daughter of the late Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the son of the slain President John F. Kennedy. Their marriage produced several daughters, three in number, but it did not last very long. Andrew Cuomo was elected again to office there in New York state, as governor, even as he was not only divorced, but living with a woman to whom he was not married, Sandra Lee, often described as a reality television star with the Food Network. For 14 years, he lived with her in cohabitation.

The shift from Mario Cuomo to Andrew Cuomo was a shift in reality from at least a claim to a Catholic identity and even a Catholic family to something that was basically a representation of Machiavellian raw politics and immorality. When it came to politics and moral issues, just to remember two things. Andrew Cuomo led the state of New York to legalize same-sex marriage. Again, remember the official teaching of the church of which he claimed to be a part and think again about the fact that we have discussed on The Briefing the fact that under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state of New York has adopted some of the most radical abortion legislation imaginable. We’re talking about legislation that in truth basically allows for a baby to be aborted up until the moment of birth.

By the way, the denial of any kind of legal recognition or personhood to that unborn child by the legal action there in New York meant that just a matter of weeks or months after New York’s legislation went into effect, when a pregnant woman was murdered, there could only be one murder charge for the woman. The unborn child is basically a non-existent reality, according to that law in New York state. Andrew Cuomo’s very well known, undeniable personal morality was matched by his understanding and his approach to leadership when it came to moral issues at the state level.

We’re talking about a man who had cohabitated with a woman for 14 years. Many people in New York state tried to argue that’s not an issue. The governor’s personal private life is not our affair. We’re a progressive state. We’re not concerned with, we don’t have hangups about that kind of personal sexual behavior until now, of course they do.

Part III

The Current Political Context of the Democratic Party: The Overwhelming Evidence Against Cuomo Turns This Into A Problem With Only One Solution

But third, we have to shift to the political context. Now, again, the President of the United States, Joe Biden of the same party, has called for Governor Cuomo to resign. Both the United States Senators, both of them Democrats from New York, have also called for the governor to resign. One of them is of course Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader for the Democrats in the United States Senate. You also have the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who by the way, is a legendary political enemy to the New York Governor, who has called for Andrew Cuomo to resign from office. We’ve also mentioned the fact that the editorial page of the New York Times even this morning, is calling for the governor’s resignation. That kind of call was going to be repeated over and over and over again.

By the time the night closed last night, there were those who were saying that the entire congressional delegation, at least of Democrats from New York, was calling for the governor to resign. One by one, you’re going to have just about every major Democratic political figure, make the same call. They have to. That’s the political context. We have to understand that the evidence against the New York Governor is so comprehensive and devastating that the members of his own party now must see it in the absolute interest of their own party to get rid of this New York Governor who will dominate the headlines at the expense of the democratic party until he is gone. People close to Governor Cuomo have indicated, just as he himself has indicated, that he will not resign. Now, there are many people who say they will not resign right up until the moment they do, but it still appears to be, in the case of Governor Cuomo, unlikely that he will resign, which means that in all likelihood, the Democratic leadership there in the state legislature will have to remove him by the process of impeachment.

Now, one of the reasons, by the way, and this is a bipartisan reality, this is not just about what happens among Democrats. This is what happens in a political party. When it comes to this kind of misbehavior, at least in general form, it’s a bipartisan pattern. It’s a bipartisan problem. The political dynamic I’m speaking of here is the fact that, at some point, a political party decides it just must get rid of this problem. Make no mistake. Andrew Cuomo right now for his party not only in New York, but nationwide, is a big problem. The party’s leadership and make no mistake, they’re in control there in New York state. They will remove Andrew Como from office, but that will take a process that will be both lengthy and extremely expensive in political terms for the party. It will mean the documentation and airing of arguments and of evidence. It’s a messy process because after all, the Constitution makes it a complicated process.

It is, after all, the forced removal by impeachment and by trial and conviction there in the legislature by constitutional means, of an elected governor. There’s another dimension of this I want to consider, remember that Governor Cuomo was awarded a special Emmy in 2020 for his performance as governor, and that was of course, mostly to do with his daily press briefings and announcements to the people of New York concerning COVID. They were broadcast live for months on cable television. Governor Cuomo was celebrated as the antithesis, at least it was claimed, of the President of the United States and the handling of COVID. You understand right now, it is Governor Cuomo who has been charged by the Attorney General and by legislative leaders in his own state of intentional misrepresentation of the fact that by his own order, many people in nursing homes had died. He kept the numbers low and not reported because he knew that an investigation would likely follow. Well, that investigation has now come.

There’s another part to this, however. We’re looking at the intersection of politics and entertainment and the news media on the left in this country. In this case, when you talk about the Cuomo dynasty, you’re not just talking about Mario Cuomo, the late father. You’re not just talking about Governor Andrew Cuomo. You’re talking about CNN figure Chris Cuomo. Several years younger than his brother, CNN had indicated when Chris Cuomo began his primetime news program, that he would not have his brother, the Governor of New York, on as a guest. CNN said at the time that would be improper. It would be, if not a breaking of journalistic ethics, at least a tension in journalistic ethics. It would not be right, but under the context of COVID and with the celebrity of both Chris Cuomo and his brother, Andrew Cuomo, CNN relaxed those guidelines.

What do we know now? Well, we know a lot more than that was relaxed, so much so that we now know, and it is documented in this report released by the New York Attorney General, that CNN Media figure Chris Cuomo, having his brother on the program was also operating behind the scenes, giving advice to his brother as to how to stay in office and to fight the allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. It is virtually impossible to imagine how CNN can claim to have any shred of journalistic credibility as a network if it keeps Chris Cuomo in office in their news program, any more than Andrew Cuomo was kept in office as the Governor of New York.

That nexus of leftist politics, the entertainment culture, and the news media is no more graphically illustrated than in the intersection of the Cuomo dynasty, the Emmy awards of 2020, CNN. You do the math.

Part IV

Responding to Sexual Abuse in a Fallen World: The Paramount Moral Imperatives of the Christian Worldview

But then we have to turn to the serious moral issues that are implicated in this story. We’re talking about the issues of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual misbehavior in general. In this case, we really are looking at assault. That is the issue behind the report released yesterday by the Attorney General. Several women who made the charge that Andrew Cuomo had not only acted improperly and perhaps even criminally, likely criminally, but he had taken advantage of the power equation in order to try to force himself sexually upon unwilling women, and he did so evidently in numerous contexts.

That led to what CNN, remember CNN has said, are likely to be the fatal 35 words when it comes to the career of Andrew Cuomo. As the CNN headline read, “35 words that almost certainly will end Andrew Cuomo’s political career.” Here are the words, “We, the investigators appointed to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, conclude that the governor engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York state law.” There are legal designations and differences when it comes to words like sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual assault, but the reality is, what we’re looking at is a pattern of sexual abuse.

It is a predatory pattern that we’ve seen over and over again. You have someone in power, in this case, the powerful governor of the state of New York, who abuses that power when it comes to trying to coerce women into giving sexual favors, establishing a sexual or romantic relationship, or even sexual touching and outright sexual acts. In the case of this report, 165 pages of it, it is devastating about the Governor of New York, but the larger moral issues that we have to recognize that in a very, very sinful world, there are those who will take every opportunity to commit sinful acts. In particular, we’re talking about someone in power, a man in power, against those who are vulnerable, those who may be reporting to him, those who may be subordinate to him in terms of some kind of position.

If you’re the Governor of New York, everyone in the state government is in some sense, subordinate to you. Asking for sexual favors, demanding sexual favors, engaging in sexual touching, we’re talking about what amounts to sexual abuse. Sexual harassment is a legal term that is used in the report, and there are accusations beyond the report that go even further. The point is this. The Christian biblical worldview is extremely clear about the Biblical pattern not only of sexual behavior, which limits all sexual expression to the institution of marriage, the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as a monogamous union, but also makes very clear that human beings are owed respect, the respect and dignity of their person, the freedom from even the fear of being sexually assaulted. The problem of sexual assault is a huge problem of sexual misconduct, of sexual harassment, whether it is a Governor or the CEO or a principal, whether it is an executive or it is the pastor of a church or a Christian leader.

It is categorically, morally wrong. It is invalidating of leadership, invalidating of ministry, invalidating of integrity. The state of New York did exactly the right thing. They basically had to do the right thing in this case, in establishing a formal legal investigation that had the authority to subpoena witnesses and to collect evidence and then to put the report before the people of New York, then with legal consequences and political consequences likely to follow.

For the Christian Church, the moral imperatives are paramount, even as all of the legal issues should certainly still pertain. Christian churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries are of course, called to an even higher standard than the state of New York in dealing with these issues and an even higher imperative to protect the vulnerable. Finally, one of the greatest tragedies in all of this is that Governor Cuomo himself keeps trying to explain his behavior is just customary behavior, the way he was raised, and what he sees as natural to power and politics.

We’ve devoted the attention on The Briefing to this big story in four different dimensions today because Christians need to think very seriously about this issue, not only reflecting upon what it means for the state of New York, but what it means for all of us: our churches, our ministries, our families, our own moral responsibility. The Editorial Board of the New York Times got right to the point in the headline of its editorial this morning, “Governor Cuomo, it’s time to resign.” That’s absolutely true, and there’s more to it than that, but that’s the right place to start.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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