EXCLUSIVE – Lindsay Nielsen, a former Albany-based investigative reporter who has accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of intimidation and bullying, spoke to state investigators during their probe of the governor’s alleged sexual misconduct.
While she called Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation “very thorough,” she was “absolutely disgusted and insulted” by Cuomo’s response to the findings, she told Fox news.
James’ office had reached out for months before she decided to participate in the probe. The findings were released in a bombshell report Tuesday that Cuomo sexually harassed current and former staff members from 2013 to 2020 and presided over an intimidating, toxic workplace.
“It took me some time and some courage to want to do it, there is just such a fear element to all of it still,” Nielsen told Fox News.
Nielsen was one of 179 people interviewed for the investigation and spent over an hour speaking to an attorney about her experience covering Cuomo. She was not sexually harassed by the governor but has spoken out about being intimidated, bullied and personally attacked by his administration when she covered Cuomo for Albany-based News10.
The investigation’s report was based on allegations from 11 different complainants, nine of whom have worked for Cuomo, either in the past or currently. It concluded he sexually harassed multiple women and retaliated against a former employee who complained, in violation of state and federal law.
“I was not surprised … that was my feeling and thought all along that is what would be determined,” Nielsen said. “As things got further along, I realized that my experience was not unique at all. There were many people who had that experience and obviously worse, as we’ve seen with the 11 women that were in the report.”
Nielsen said many people have referred to Cuomo’s behavior as “Albany’s best kept secret” but it was hardly hush-hush among reporters who covered the administration.
“It’s always talked about,” she said, noting that Cuomo’s tenure is referred to as a “reign of terror” because he uses fear and intimidation to get what he wants.
Nielsen said Tuesday’s report was emotional for executive chamber staffers, other reporters and former colleagues who never thought the governor would be held accountable for his actions. Cuomo is in the worst political crisis of his career as he faces calls to resign from his own party, including from President Joe Biden.
“You dealt with this behavior for so long and then somebody is finally saying this was wrong,” Nielsen said. “It feels good. It feels like some vindication.”
Nielsen has said Cuomo’s team had “the power to kill stories” on a local level, but she is grateful his tactics haven’t kept the devastating report out of the national spotlight. While she is pleased that the mainstream media is paying attention to Cuomo’s alleged wrongdoings, Nielsen didn’t appreciate the governor’s attempt to defend himself.
Cuomo played a slideshow of him touching and kissing people during a pre-recorded denial that has been labeled “propaganda” by accuser Charlotte Bennett.
“I was absolutely disgusted and insulted by Governor Cuomo’s response yesterday. I think a lot of people were, I think a lot of people that were interviewed by the attorney general’s office and did tell the truth were very insulted by that,” Nielsen said.
“He was using generational perspective, politics and his cousin’s experience with sexual assault as his defense against these instances of him sexually harassing people,” she added. “The photo collage has absolutely nothing to do with anything and that has nothing to do with these specific incidents that these women are referring to. So for him to also bring up these photos was, I think, just, again, insulting and confusing to a lot of people.”
Ironically, Nielsen said Cuomo typically echoed whatever the AG had to say back when she covered his administration.
“In any other instance, I feel like he would say, ‘Well, this is what the attorney general report says, this is what they found and this is the facts,’” Nielsen said. “But now that it’s against him, he’s saying, ‘Well, you know, my lawyer has the real facts. You know, look at what the statements my lawyer put out and whatnot.’”
Nielsen spoke out against Gov. Cuomo in the first place with ambitions of changing the way the media is treated in Albany. She left the Albany-based network in 2017 as an investigative reporter after joining in 2012 and told Fox News that “one of the reasons” she left was because of abusive conduct from the Cuomo administration. Nielsen said Cuomo’s administration used multiple “tactics” to intimidate her but is hopeful the AG report will stop the next batch of capital journalists from enduring the same behavior.
“I think at the very least it’s opened that door for a lot of people to realize that, you know, this type of behavior is not going to be OK anymore,” she said.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and David Rutz contributed to this report.