Andrew Cuomo took a page right out of ‘is’-story when pressed by investigators about a former gal pal.
The disgraced ex-governor asked for the precise meaning of “date” and “girlfriend,” a newly released transcript of his interrogation by state investigators shows — reaching back to a ploy once used by former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The governor’s evasive back and forth when pressed by state investigators probing his alleged serial sexual harassment of women mimicked Clinton’s infamous dissecting of the word “is,” as documented in a report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal sent to Congress.
On Aug. 17, 1998, Clinton was asked when delivering grand jury testimony whether the statement by his lawyer Robert S. Bennett that, “there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form, with President Clinton [and Monica Lewinsky]” was truthful.
Clinton replied, ”It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
“If the — if he — if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not — that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement,” Clinton went on. “Now if someone had asked me on that day, ‘Are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky,’ that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”
During an 11-hour interview on July 17, documented in a 515-page transcript released Wednesday, Cuomo — who served as Clinton’s HUD secretary — similarly parsed the definition of the words “date” and “girlfriend” when asked if he compared first accuser Lindsey Boylan’s appearance to that of ex-actor Lisa Shields, his former romantic partner.
“Do you remember ever comparing [Boylan] with any ex-girlfriends of yours?” asked Joon Kim, a former federal prosecutor hired by state Attorney General Letitia James to handle the probe independently.
“Not an ex-girlfriend,” Cuomo replied, before conceding that he had remarked that the former aide’s appearance bore an “uncanny resemblance” to “a person I know.”
He then instructed Stephanie Benton, the then-governor’s office director, to tell Boylan to Google-search Shields, according to Cuomo’s testimony.
Asked if Shields — whom Boylan identified in her initial sexual harassment accusation as a “rumored former girlfriend” — was his girlfriend, Cuomo responded that she was “a friend of mine 20 years ago.”
Cuomo then spoke broadly about Boylan’s characterization of his relationship with Shields and questioned if there had been any documented references in news articles to Shields as Cuomo’s girlfriend.
“Was she a girlfriend of yours?” the prober pressed
“She was a friend. How do you want to define ‘girlfriend’?” Cuomo answered.
Kim asked: “Did you date her?”
“How do you want to define ‘date’?” Cuomo countered.
Kim put the question back to Cuomo: “How do you define date?
Cuomo insisted that it “doesn’t matter” how he defines “date” because it was the investigator’s question.
“Do you understand what a girlfriend is?” asked Kim.
“Well, girlfriend means different things to different people,” said Cuomo.
After Cuomo again claimed he needs to know Kim’s definition of girlfriend to accurately respond to his questioning and claimed the term meant “a friend who is a girl,” the prober was forced to get even more specific.
“Kiss — you kiss. You go on dates.” Kim said, again attempting to define the word girlfriend. “Would you go on dates?
“Did I kiss her? Yes,” Cuomo acknowledged. “There was a period of time that I kissed her.
“You went on dates with her?” the investigator asked.
Cuomo responded ambiguously: “She was a friend and we did activities together.”
Finally, after four pages worth of circuitous lecturing on the supposed ambiguity of definitions of everyday words, Cuomo replied, “Yes,” when Kim asked “if you define ‘girlfriend’ as a woman-friend who you see romantically for a period of time, was Lisa Shields a girlfriend of yours?”
Cuomo’s roundabout exchanges comes after in February, Boylan, who was deputy secretary for economic development and special advisor to the governor, posted screenshots of government emails, including one in which Cuomo’s executive secretary, Stephanie Benton, passed along a message from the governor that referenced a reported former girlfriend to show she was his type.
“He said look up Lisa Shields. You could be sisters. Except you’re the better looking sister,” read the Dec. 14, 2016 email.
Subsequently, Cuomo “began calling me ‘Lisa’ in front of colleagues,” Boylan wrote in her Feb. 24 Medium post. “It was degrading.”