Andrew Cuomo described his top aide Melissa DeRosa as a “mean girl,” according to the New York Attorney General’s report, which described the “toxic” work environment created by the governor and his feared adviser.
Known for her fierce loyalty to her boss, DeRosa, 38, has worked for Cuomo since 2013 and became a household name during the pandemic as she sat by Cuomo’s side almost daily.
However, Letitia James’s report on 11 women’s allegations of sexual harassment painted a darker picture of DeRosa’s role.
She worked to discredit some of the women, according to James’s report, and was charged in the document with “unlawful retaliation.”
DeRosa is accused in the 168-page document of helping to cultivate a “toxic” workplace for young female staffers.
Melissa DeRosa is pictured with her boss, Andrew Cuomo, after meeting President-elect Donald Trump in January 2017. DeRosa was featured in Tuesday’s report on sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo by 11 women
“She can be very difficult to deal with,” a source told The New York Post.
“DeRosa is feared. If you cross her, you cross the governor.’
Cuomo himself nicknamed her and others within the inner circle “mean girls,” the report said — though he denied the nickname. She asked him to stop.
DeRosa was previously acting chief of staff to former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault.
When the charges against Cuomo surfaced this spring, DeRosa played a key role in trying to limit the damage.
The pair were known for being close: Earlier this year, photos appeared of Cuomo, now 63, and DeRosa, 38, enjoying an intimate dinner at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in lower Manhattan on September 8, 2016.
Cuomo and DeRosa were pictured at a cozy dinner in September 2016 – shortly after she married his former spokesperson, Matthew Wing. He appeared at one point (pictured) to rest his hand on her leg
DeRosa has been with Cuomo since 2013 and is one of his closest allies and staunchest defenders
DeRosa is pictured with her husband, Matthew Wing, who is a communications chief for Uber
DeRosa had married former Cuomo spokesperson Matthew Wing just 12 days earlier, on Aug. 27.
Cuomo had a long-standing relationship with celebrity chef Sandra Lee at the time. They lived together in her sprawling home in Mt. Kisco, New York until they finally broke up in 2019.
Cuomo started telling his staff in 2020 that he was lonely and wanted another girlfriend.
When Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old health policy adviser, reported on Cuomo’s deeply uncomfortable investigation into her sexual history and past abuse, DeRosa and other top aides — including defense counsel Judith Mogul and former chief of staff Jill Des Rosiers — stepped up to act on her concerns. .
Charlotte Bennett, 25, said she saw Cuomo as a mentor but felt he was aggressively pursuing her sexually
Bennett worked as a public health policy advisor. She reported her concerns to his senior staff, but according to James’s report, the team was tailing her to help her
Under state law, she should have immediately reported her complaints to the governor’s office for employee relations.
After Bennett came forward with her allegations, the Executive Chamber enacted “personnel changes” so that “they would avoid situations where the governor could be seen as compromising with any woman.”
But DeRosa and Mogul apparently described the change as “really more for the protection of the governor.”
DeRosa was reportedly furious with Cuomo for his behavior towards Bennett.
The couple were in a car and DeRosa chided him, saying, “I can’t believe this happened. I can’t believe you put yourself in a situation where you would have a version of this conversation.”
She got out when the car stopped at a traffic light.
Lindsay Boylan was one of the first women to publicly accuse Cuomo of harassment
When Lindsey Boylan, a former state economic development officer, began tweeting an allusion to harassment in 2020 — she wouldn’t make a full, public accusation until March this year — DeRosa released Boylan’s personnel file to select media outlets.
DeRosa admitted the move to discredit Boylan when she spoke to James’s team, saying she made the decision because Boylan’s tweets about the governor — including that he was “one of the greatest abusers of all time” — “continued to more escalated.” the report states.
Former aide Josh Vlasto told investigators that if DeRosa decided to leak the files, it was “safe to say” the move was “according to what the governor wanted or had been discussed with him and he approved it.”
A current aide — who has since accused Cuomo of groping her — told James’s team that she saw the attempts as a way to discredit Boylan, calling her “crazy” and accusing her of having a political agenda, the report said.
DeRosa also played a role in spreading a proposed opinion, originally drafted by Cuomo, that contained “personal and professional attacks” on Boylan, and later shared with current and former Executive Chamber employees.
“The draft letter or op-ed attacking Ms. Boylan, especially in conjunction with the release of the confidential internal data to the press, constitutes retaliation,” the researchers wrote.
DeRosa is seen with Cuomo in April 2020 and was by his side almost daily during the televised press conferences
Another former employee was asked by DeRosa to call a current employee — known as “Kaitlin,” who also accused Cuomo of harassment — and record the conversation, asking if she was working with Boylan or if she ‘had her own accusations against the governor’ or talked to reporters.’
And when a state agent made charges against Cuomo, DeRosa, who serves as Cuomo’s chair of the New York State Council on Women & Girls, tried to bury them and convince a newspaper editor not to publish them.
A reporter from The Albany Times-Union called for comment on the state trooper’s allegations, and DeRosa yelled at the editor of the paper, saying, “You’re trying to reduce her hiring to appearances. That’s what men do.’
DeRosa’s attorney declined to comment.
In a statement, Azzopardi, Cuomo’s communications director, said: “The report does not mention Melissa and suggestions otherwise are factually incorrect.”