Any New Yorker alive in the 1980s knows the reference “Teflon Don.” It was well-earned by Gambino family mob boss John Gotti, famously acquitted in three high-profile trials in that decade. The Teflon wore off, however, in 1992, when he was finally convicted of five murders, conspiracy to commit murder, tax evasion, racketeering and several other charges. He died in prison in 2002.
But another famous Don, Donald Trump, would later earn the nickname for his flagrant refusal to own up to any of the well-documented financial, legal and personal transgressions he was accused of, continuously dodging the long arm of the law, and accruing wide swaths of loyal supporters who, it seemed, loved him for this very defiance and invincibility.
Over the course of his professional and personal life, Trump has survived multiple lawsuits, bankruptcies, allegations of sexual assault, and even two impeachment trials. Now he faces a long list of criminal and civil suits against him post-presidency. We’ll have to wait and see if the Teflon is finally wearing off.
But another New York pol seems eager to take up the Teflon mantle — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who sounds more and more like Trump with every passing day.
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The latest embarrassing example? Cuomo is telling New Yorkers not to believe the results of an independent investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.
“I’m not telling anyone to have faith in anything,” he said in a briefing on Monday. “Everybody makes their own decisions.”
You read that right: Cuomo is intentionally sowing seeds of doubt in the integrity of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation. And to hammer the point home, he offered up as possible “proof” the totally unfounded rumors that she is considering a run for governor in the next Democratic primary.
This, after just last month calling James a “very competent” AG who should be allowed to “do her job.”
It was, needless to say, a one-two sucker punch to his alleged victims, the women who came out to tell their stories and are looking for some sort of justice to be done.
It was also an insult to New Yorkers, who deserve better than a governor who tells them not to trust the very person he endorsed for the job.
But it’s also just so blatantly, pathetically, Trumpian. The point of James’ investigation, as Cuomo has himself said, is to get to the truth about the multiple claims of sexual harassment and unwanted touching against the governor.
If, at the end of it, “everybody makes their own decisions” about its findings, what is the point? For Cuomo, like Trump, truth is merely theoretical now, malleable and downright bendable. He may as well just preemptively call the conclusion of the investigation “alternative facts.”
He’s also, like Trump, refusing to go anywhere, regardless of what happens.
“I did nothing wrong, period,” he said Monday, “and I’m not resigning, and I’m doing my job every day.”
It’s not the first time Cuomo’s tried on Trump for size. He’s also dismissed as merely partisan politics allegations that his administration covered up COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
“That was a political investigation started by Donald Trump, who politicized not just COVID, but nursing homes and policies toward nursing homes.”
There is increasingly little daylight between Trump’s constant deflections and lack of accountability and Cuomo’s. In fact, it has become hard to tell them apart.
Over the past year they’ve traded barbs constantly, each sounding more and more like bickering playground bullies, not elected officeholders.
After Trump launched indefensible ethnic slurs at Cuomo’s Italian family, Cuomo told Howard Stern, “If I wasn’t governor of New York, I would have decked him. Period.”
Cuomo called Trump’s COVID handling “the greatest failure to detect an enemy attack since Pearl Harbor” and said, “I hold Donald Trump responsible for every death in New York State from COVID.” Every. Not to be outdone, Trump called him “a bully thug” whose COVID handling made New York “probably the worst-run state in the country.”
Cuomo, up against the wall for multiple scandals, apparently sees no way out other than to do all the things Democrats and many Republicans rightly lamented in Trump for years.
He reportedly used his inner circle to try to tarnish the credibility of one of his accusers.
He has blamed “cancel culture” for the many accusations against him of bullying, incompetence and bad behavior.
He’s trying to undermine the integrity of anyone who isn’t loyal.
This behavior isn’t just unbecoming. It’s un-Democratic. It has no place in elected office. It was wrong for Trump. It’s wrong for Cuomo. Let’s just hope the Teflon’s finally wearing off.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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