• Miranda L. Galbreath, MA, MA, LPC

AG Letitia James puts Governor Cuomo's thinking errors on blast

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

I’d like to start by saying that I don’t know Governor Andrew Cuomo. We’ve never met, and I’ve never treated him. The only information I have access to is the same information that everybody else does: The recent investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and the Governor’s own words in response to said investigation via a position statement and video.

As I’ve watched Governor Cuomo respond to the allegations against him, and to the results of the investigation, I can’t help but imagine him sitting in one of my treatment groups for men incarcerated for committing sexual offenses. I can’t help but picture the collective groan that would go up from his fellow group members as he uttered thinking error after thinking error related to his sexually harmful behaviors. Once the groans subside, I can picture his fellow group members getting busy with respectfully and compassionately pointing out to him his problematic thinking that helps him stay in his “offending cycle,” and continue to sexually harm others.

As I can’t actually bring Governor Cuomo to one of my treatment groups to benefit from the wisdom of his peers who have also engaged in sexually harmful behaviors, I will spend a few minutes putting that wisdom out in to the Universe; on the off chance that somehow these thoughts make it in front of his eyeballs. In the unlikely event that they do, I hope they give him hope that he can indeed identify and address the unhealthy patterns of thinking that contribute to his choosing to engage in sexually harmful behaviors.

For those not familiar with thinking errors, these are the unhealthy and/or problematic patterns of thinking that we engage in which contribute to us moving closer to problematic, including sexually harmful, behaviors. We can also use thinking errors to help us remain in unhealthy patterns of behavior. We often also use thinking errors in an attempt to control the perceptions of others about our behavior. If we think about how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors interact, we can identify that the way we think effects how we feel, and what we choose to do.

Folks in my treatment groups often struggle to understand how they got to the place where they were sexually victimizing another person. Once they are taught how to examine their thinking, and to understand how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected, they start to understand how they allowed themselves to move closer to sexually harming others with every thinking error. They also begin to understand how examining and challenging their thinking is a crucial part of moving forward with their lives in a safer, healthier way that does not involve sexually harming others.

Now that we know about thinking errors, let’s look at a few of Governor Cuomo’s thinking errors that appear in his statements about the allegations against him. Unfortunately, the amount of thinking errors he has used between his written and recorded statements are so vast, I am limiting myself to some themes so as not to become overwhelmed:

Seeking Sympathy: This is often an after-the-fact thinking error that we use to control the perceptions of us and our behaviors in the people around us, or in Governor Cuomo's case, the whole world. He repeatedly portrays himself as greatly wronged, misunderstood, and harmed by these allegations via statements such as “It has been a hard and a painful period for me and my family. Especially as others feed ugly stories to the press.” Clearly the goal here is to make others feel sorry for you, and to distract attention from holding you accountable. Seeking Sympathy is closely related to another thinking error....

Playing the Victim: Here, a person attempts to "flip the script," and convince others that THEY, and not those they harmed with their behavior, are actually the ones being victimized. Governor Cuomo's statements are riddled with this. “Trial by newspaper, or biased reviews, are not the way to find the facts." He laments that in the course of the allegations and the investigation, statements made about him "unfairly characterize and weaponize everyday interactions." He laments that his attempts to help an employee of his who is a survivor of sexual abuse were simply very badly misunderstood attempts to be helpful. Which leads us to another thinking error....

Mr. Nice Guy: This might look like attempting to portray yourself as being such a good guy in general that you would never do the harmful thing you're accused of doing. Or attempting to convince others that the harmful act you committed was actually you being a nice guy. Or after the fact, trying to show off all the good things you've done since then to fix the alleged problem. Mr. Cuomo went for ALL THREE of those!

He explains to us that in the case of Charlotte Bennett, a survivor of sexual abuse, he was simply attempting to be a helpful, Nice Guy. And that prior to Ms. Bennett's arrival in his office, he had been a helpful Nice Guy for quite some time. He says of Ms. Bennett, "she identified herself to me as a survivor of sexual assault.” “She said she came to work in my administration because of all the progress we had made in fighting sexual assault.” “The truth is that her story resonated deeply with me.” “My own family member is a survivor of sexual assault.” “I spent countless days and nights working with through these issues with her.” As we can see, he's a really, really Nice Guy who fights, not commits sexual assault. Which is why Charlotte Bennett wanted to be around him in the first place.

He goes on to seek more Sympathy, stating first of the loved one he reportedly tried to help: “I’m governor of the state of New York, but I felt powerless to help. And felt that I had failed her.” Of Ms. Bennett he stated, “This young woman brought it all back.” “I thought her I could help her work through a difficult time.” “I was trying to make sure she was working through it the best she could.” As a bonus, here he is also using quite a few other thinking errors, including Distracting, Changing the Subject, Seeking Approval, and People Pleasing. I'm guessing you can figure out what all of those are about.

Governor Cuomo then says of Ms. Bennett, his other accusers, interviewed witnesses, and those who investigated her allegations: “They read into comments that I made, and draw inferences that I never meant. They ascribe motives I never had. They heard things that I just didn’t say.” In my treatment groups here we might identify him using the thinking errors of Blaming the Victim, Avoiding Detail, Playing Confused, and Lying. At this point, as you can see, there are so many thinking errors, I can't be bothered to provide definitions for each of them.

Near the end of his recorded statement, he takes a final shot at Mr. Nice Guy with bonus Seeking Approval and People Pleasing (Not to mention Distracting and Changing the Subject) by explaining that, while New York already has sexual harassment prevention training, and he himself has taken it, he wants us to know, "I've brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy and procedures." Because he is a really, really Nice Guy, who just wants to help.

Again, there are so, so many more thinking errors flying around here, but blogs are supposed to be short, I think, so I will cut myself off here, even though I am so, so tempted to get into talking about his photo array of himself hugging and touching, according to him, everyone, all the time, always, in a totally benign, not sexually harassing way for his "entire life." And pointing out how other men do this too, so obviously it's totally cool. Reach out and touch someone, folks. Nope. Instead, maybe check out my blog about consent.

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