According to text exchanges published this week by the New York Attorney General’s office, a Facebook manager who had worked for Andrew Cuomo surreptitiously encouraged the disgraced former governor’s staff to “victim shame” a sexual harassment claimant.
The Facebook employee then attempted to conceal her participation in counselling the governor, according to the texts she sent.
“Like I’m scared about FB knowing I’ve been working on this, and so on,” Dani Lever, a former Cuomo aide, wrote back in March, according to sources.
Next that communication, Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi informed Lever that he had obtained her name’s removal from a news piece that was scheduled to be published the following day.
During a time when the governor was mired in charges that he had behaved improperly against workers, Lever said, “Rich, I could kiss you, but it feels like poor form this week.”
Both were hurrying to assist Cuomo in responding to the charges that eventually resulted in his departure from the governorship.
According to the texts, Lever, who has worked for Facebook since August 2020, provided advice to the then-staff governor’s for many months.
When it came to discrediting Lindsey Boylan, a Cuomo worker who accused the governor of sexual harassment in December 2020, Lever advised Cuomo aides on the best way to go about doing it.
Azzopardi and Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s second-in-command, received a message from Lever in December 2020 saying, “I believe we can victim shaming on the record.”
According to the attorney general, Lever also assisted in the distribution of Boylan’s employment data to media.
As seen by texts obtained by The Washington Post, Lever made a comparison between his “victim shaming” technique and how President Joe Biden handled to sexual misconduct charges from former Senate aide Tara Reade during Biden’s 2020 campaign.
“By the way, this was a part of Biden’s statement as well. In response, the Biden camp said that “this certainly did not happen” and subsequently issued a statement,” Lever wrote.
Later, Lever made a light-hearted joke about the situation with Cuomo ally Linda Lacewell, saying, “I’m still not sure why we’re talking to Gov. haha.”
“However, I’ll be along for the journey.”
When Lever worked for Governor Andrew Cuomo, he even had to face a former Cuomo aide who had “liked” one of the woman who had accused Cuomo of sexual assault.
“You loved Charlotte’s tweet, didn’t you?” “Call me,” Lever said in a series of texts to an ex-staff member, Andrew Ball, in February. “I’m available.” “Did you do it on purpose?? “Do you think you’ll enjoy it?”
Ball then answered with the word “done,” to which Lever responded with a love emoji.
Ball, who was no longer employed by Cuomo at the time of the incident, told investigators that he had un-liked the tweet in order to maintain his working connection with the governor and his staff.
A portion of the communications were discovered as part of Attorney General Letitia James’ enquiry of sexual misbehaviour by Cuomo, which resulted in his resignation in August as a result of her findings.
Since then, James has disclosed evidence from her enquiry on a recurring basis, in what Cuomo’s team has attempted to paint as a politically motivated attempt to assist her own governor’s campaign.
Additionally, the materials released this week contained a 449-page transcript of a deposition James’ investigators had with Lever in June, during which they questioned her about her work for Cuomo and why she kept it a secret from her Facebook friends.
According to Lever, “it’s something I was doing on my own time, and I would have wanted Facebook not to be aware,” he added.
While Lever testified that the majority of her behind-the-scenes work for Cuomo was done without Facebook’s knowledge, she added that she had obtained permission from her Facebook supervisor to put her name on a February letter disputing Boylan’s claim that Cuomo suggested they play strip poker while on a taxpayer-funded plane in 2017.
Lever also testified that she had received permission from her Facebook supervisor to put her name on a February letter disputing Boylan’s claim that Cuomo suggested.
“I inquired as to permission,” Lever said. “It didn’t bother her at all.”
Ethics experts have expressed worry that Lever’s collaboration with Cuomo might place Facebook in violation of New York lobbying regulations, which prohibit registered lobbyists from delivering gifts to public officials worth more than $15.
According to public records, Facebook has been a registered lobbyist in the state of New York since at least 2019.
In light of the fact that Lever works in communications, his assistance in navigating Cuomo through a public relations issue constituted an improper gift, according to David Grandeau, a former senior ethics official in the state of New York.
According to Grandeau, who spoke with The Washington Post in September, “using your professional talents and delivering them to a public figure for free is a gift. It’s a misdemeanour on her part, and it’s a misdemeanour on Facebook’s part as well. It is an unequivocal infringement.”
Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, which is now the parent company of Facebook, refused to comment on Lever’s work for Cuomo and the possibility of a breach of the state’s lobbying laws.
Azzopardi did not respond to a request for comment. In response to a request for comment, Lever did not react.
Lever is one of the few Cuomo confidantes who does not seem to have suffered any career repercussions as a result of their involvement in the controversy.
After the attorney general released damning details about how Cuomo’s defence was coordinated, Chris Cuomo’s CNN show was suspended on Tuesday.
Cuomo’s other confidantes, including Human Rights Campaign head Alphonso David, Time’s Up executives Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan, as well as a pair of managing directors at public relations firm Kivvit, have all since quit their positions or been fired since James published her investigation in August.
Legislators including Republican US Rep. Elise Stefanik and Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim called on Facebook to remove Lever after the New York Post first reported on her participation in Cuomo’s defence.
As part of her recommendations, Kim suggested that Facebook “at the very least” employ an independent legal firm to look into Lever’s status as an advisor to the governor – a move that the Human Rights Campaign took before firing David.
Former Cuomo employee Peter Ajemian, who assisted the governor in his battle against sexual misconduct allegations, was hired by Apple earlier this summer as a software engineer.
The corporation has made no statement about his involvement in the Cuomo incident.
- Andrew Cuomo Lindsey Boylan: WILLIAM VOLCOV/SHUTTERSTOCK/FACEBOOK