SOUTHAMPTON — In just one year, Andrew Cuomo has gone from being the most powerful governor in the country — and at one time the ubiquitous hero of the 2020 pandemic — to the most elusive fallen star in the Hamptons.
“I think he’s ashamed. He’s embarrassed and he doesn’t want to deal with the questions and the looks and responses he might get. He’s a bit of a hermit,” Karen Hinton, who was Cuomo’s press secretary from 1995 to 1999 and has accused him of an unwanted sexual advance, told The Post.
Other sources said that any “shame” he may have stems more from the anger he feels about losing his job — unfairly he believes — and regret about not fighting for it harder. They also speculated it’s fueling Cuomo’s disappearance from the public eye.
“He won’t show his face anywhere,” a longtime Hamptons insider who knows the Cuomo family said last week. “Chris [Cuomo’s disgraced younger brother] is out and about all the time. Matt Lauer did grosser things and you see him around all the time. But not Andrew. The feeling is that he has a lot of shame over what happened and he’s hiding.”
Although Cuomo, 64, has $10 million in campaign finance money, and insiders say hasn’t given up on politics, he’s also still officially homeless after leaving the Executive Mansion in Albany where he lived for 11 years. (For much of his time in office, he also lived in a Westchester home with then girlfriend Sandra Lee.)
Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 24, 2021 after a damning sexual harassment report from the New York Attorney General’s Office that had him facing impeachment. But an upstate district attorney’s office dropped any criminal investigation.
Insiders say the former gov resents what happened to him and regrets not staying and fighting for his job, although his impeachment seemed to be nearly a done deal.
“As Governor Cuomo has always said, he did not sexually harass anyone and five different district attorneys who independently reviewed the allegations refused to move forward against him. At the same time, the AG suppressed irrefutable evidence of perjury, blackmail, witness tampering and inconsistent testimony in this sham probe,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The Post.
Cuomo’s insiders told The Post that Andrew splits his time between the Hamptons, where he crashes with his brother, Chris, in Sag Harbor or with longtime pal Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Southampton; Westchester, where his sister, Maria Cuomo Cole, lives, and Manhattan where he stays with friends or relatives.
He has also been seeing a 50-ish woman who lives in the Southampton area, The Post is told.
But except for a few brief sightings — hanging with old friend Billy Joel at his waterfront Hamptons estate over the July 4th weekend or reportedly helping a stalled motorist in East Hampton last week — he’s been MIA this summer. (Although he did tweet a surprising dig at the Department of Justice on Aug. 9, trashing them for the raid at Mar-a-Lago, the home of his longtime nemesis Donald Trump.) He wasn’t seen much before that, either, except for what appeared to be carefully-curated appearances like dining out in Manhattan with Mayor Eric Adams or speaking out at churches in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Insiders say he is not likely to go into the private sector — and may focus on another state, city or congressional political run eventually.
Azzopardi pushed back against the idea that Cuomo is hiding out in shame.
“Anyone saying that doesn’t know Andrew Cuomo,” he said. “He’s living his life, speaks up when he has something to say and whenever he’s out and about is mobbed by New Yorkers who appreciate his contributions and can’t believe what happened to him.”
A veteran Democratic operative who worked for both Andrew and his father, three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, compared Cuomo and his Albany inner circle to “a club of Disney villains.”
“Melissa DeRosa was the Ice Queen,” the operative said of Cuomo’s longtime, powerful top aide. “Andrew was Jafar, the evil guy from ‘Aladdin’ who’s been banished to the Cave of Wonders and now he’s spending all his time trying to come back. This is his life now. It’s what he goes to bed thinking about. He’s plotting and planning to re-emerge. He’s keeping score on everything.”
But that scares some of the women who say he sexually harassed them.
“I’m still afraid of him,” Ana Liss told The Post. Now 36, she who worked in the governor’s office for two years as a policy aide before leaving in 2015 and was the third woman to accuse him of sexual harassment last year. Eight more women would eventually come forward with similar accusations.
“There’s something nefarious and ‘American Psycho’ and borderline personality about him. I’m afraid he could use his power to negatively impact my career. Even to this day I have to fight feelings of regret about speaking up because I will pay a price for it for my entire life,” she said. “At one point I even wondered if I should up and move to Wyoming to get out from under the shadow.”
“He’s not really a people person. He only wants to be around people who just say yes to him,” said Hinton, who wrote a book, Penis Politics, in which she accused Cuomo of bullying and sexual harassment.
Unlike Andrew, his younger brother Chris, 52, has been out and about since being fired from his reported $6 million-per-year anchor perch at CNN last year after it came out that he advised Andrew during his sexual misconduct scandal.
He drives his pickup truck most mornings from his isolated bay-front compound outside Sag Harbor — where Andrew is believed to be living much of the time — to get coffee at the Grindstone on Main Street or at Jack’s Stir Brew.
Chris who launched a podcast recently and will join NewsNation as an anchor this fall, also often at the Sag Harbor boatyard where he keeps his boat. But despite Andrew’s recent photo of the two brothers out fishing, a boatyard worker says he rarely sees the disgraced ex-governor.
Still, “The man is not in hiding, the man knows exactly what he’s doing,” said Cuomo’s friend, the Rev. Alfred Cockfield II, whose East Flatbush church is where the former governor made his first post-resignation public appearance last March, railing about how he’d been a victim of “cancel culture.”
“He’s had some ups and downs and we’ve been friends through it all,” Cockfield added. “You may not see a lot of him but it’s only because he’s figuring out his next move. He’s resilient. I would not count that man out.”
Indeed, Cuomo scored a big win last week when an Albany County court ruled that a now-defunct state ethics watchdog overstepped its authority by ordering him to surrender the $5.1 million received from a controversial book deal inked while he was still in office.
“Cuomo was strong and a lot of people liked that,” Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the state Democratic Party, told The Post. “I don’t see that in Kathy [Hochul]. Not everyone wants to admit it now but he was there for an awful lot of people during the worst of Covid and it meant a lot to them.”
Some of those people, including a female Democratic Party activist of more than 50 years, said she remains a fierce supporter of Cuomo — but not so much so that she’s will to go on the record with her name.
“Sure he can be a bastard,” she said. “I don’t care. He saved people’s lives during that pandemic. He was out getting beds. He flew to confront Trump. He kept the morale of the world up during a very tough time. I had friends texting me from overseas telling me he was their lifeline. I think he was set up and taken out.”
Others are disgusted by the decision to let Cuomo keep the money from the book and by what they see as a lack of remorse and contrition for his notorious handling of the nursing home deaths from Covid.
“We understood that it was a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist at the Fox News Channel who lost both her elderly in-laws to Covid as a result of what she termed Cuomo’s “killer nursing home order.” His March 2020 policy sent Covid-positive patients into nursing homes for 45 days, resulting in the deaths of thousands of seniors.
“He thought the hospitals were going to be overrun. He didn’t have a place to put [elderly patients]. We get that. Had he just met with family members, and talked to us, we would have forgiven him. Instead he capitalized on his popularity and wrote a book and won an Emmy. But to this day he’s never apologized,” Dean told The Post. “I really think it is a psychological trait of is that he doesn’t apologize. [He seems to think] nothing he does is a mistake. And everyone else is to blame. He’s the ‘victim’ here — both of the nursing home deaths and the sexual harassment allegations.”
Dem. Assemblyman Ron Kim — whose uncle died of coronavirus in a nursing home — was famously on the receiving end of the Cuomo temper in Feb. 2021 after, he said, the then-governor called him at home and threatened to “destroy” him if he didn’t help contain the damage over the administration’s cover-up of nursing home deaths.
“If he’d recognized mistakes were made and come clean, the public would have forgiven him,” Kim told The Post last week. “Instead he lied and covered it up. He wanted to control the narrative and his image.”
A longtime Cuomo advisor who also knew Andrew’s father, three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo well, said Andrew’s sometimes threatening persona is how he was able to push through key legislation such as legalizing gay marriage, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and a number of tough gun control laws.
“One person’s bully is another person’s hero,” the longtime advisor told The Post. “There’s a kind of dramatic crushing sense to where he was and how it ended. For good and for bad, the success and failures of Andrew Cuomo are wed together intimately. He has a certain kind of personality that allows him to get big things done. He’s also capable of self-reflection and changing course. He’s done so before. He hasn’t been taken down by this and he is not hanging his head in shame. I’m confident he’ll be back.”
Maybe, maybe not.
“This guy was a textbook example of Icarus flying too close to the sun,” the veteran Democratic Party operative told The Post.
“He was flying so high, on TV every day. He goes national, people are calling themselves ‘Cuomosexuals,’ the zeitgeist hates Trump and there’s talk of him running for president. But he gets too close to the sun knowing he has tremendous weaknesses: a bad relationship with the press and with his peers in state government and even on the federal level. When you run into a problem in government, your friends in government will give you some runway to work it out. But when you only make enemies and you have no friends, you got no runway. He hit the sun and blazed out.”
A number of people interviewed by The Post for this story knew Mario Cuomo as well as Andrew.
“If his dad were alive, the first thing he’d tell Andrew was that he loves him,” said another Democratic Party veteran politician and civic leader who worked with both Cuomos. “And he’d tell him to focus on the future in an intelligent way, do something intelligent for the people and forget about the past. Lucky for him he still has his [90-year-old mother] Matilda. She is always positive and upbeat and supportive.”
The source said that Andrew always had big shoes to fill when it came to his father. Now, in exile from public life, he is literally wearing his pop’s shoes.
“He walks in his father’s shoes, I’ve seen it,” he said. “They’re black wingtip shoes. They give him strength.”