Facebook staffer advised Andrew Cuomo’s team to ‘victim shame’ accuser
A Facebook manager who once worked for Andrew Cuomo secretly advised the disgraced ex-governor’s team to “victim shame” a sexual harassment accuser, according to text messages released this week by the New York Attorney General’s office.
The Facebook staffer then sought to cover up her involvement in advising the governor, the messages reveal.
“Like I’m nervous about FB knowing I’ve been working on this etc etc.,” Dani Lever, the former Cuomo staffer, wrote in March about her new employer. The same evening as that message, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told Lever he’d gotten her name removed from a news story that was set to come out.
“Rich I could kiss you but it seems like bad form this week,” Lever replied as the governor was embroiled in allegations he’d acted inappropriately toward staffers.
Both were scrambling to help Cuomo respond to the allegations that ultimately led to his resignation. Lever, who has worked for Facebook since August 2020, advised the then-governor’s team for months, according to the messages.
In one instance, Lever helped Cuomo aides decide how to smear Lindsey Boylan, a Cuomo staffer who accused the governor of sexual harassment in December 2020.
“I think we can victim shame on the record,” Lever wrote in a December 2020 message to Azzopardi and Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s No. 2. Lever also helped share Boylan’s personnel records with reporters, according to the attorney general.
Lever compared the “victim shaming” strategy to how President Joe Biden responded to sexual misconduct allegations from former senate staffer Tara Reade during Biden’s 2020 campaign, the texts show.
“This was part of Biden’s response by the way. Biden camp said ‘this absolutely did not happen’ then gave statement,’” Lever wrote.
A few days later, Lever quipped to Cuomo ally Linda Lacewell, “I still don’t know why we are talking to Gov lol. But I’m here for the ride.”
Lever’s work for Cuomo even included confronting a former Cuomo staffer for “liking” a tweet from an accuser named Charlotte Bennett.
“You liked Charlotte’s tweet? Call me,” Lever said in a series of messages to the the ex-staffer, Andrew Ball, in February. “Was that on purpose?? Can you unlike it.”
Ball then replied “done” and Lever responded with a heart emoji. Ball, who was no longer working for Cuomo, told investigators that he had un-liked the tweet because he wanted to preserve his relationship with the governor and his team.
The messages were unearthed as part of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into sexual misconduct by Cuomo, which ultimately led to his resignation in August.
James has since periodically released material from her investigation in what Cuomo’s camp has sought to portray as a politically motivated bid to boost her own campaign for governor.
In addition to Lever’s messages, this week’s batch of documents also included a 449-page transcript of a deposition James’ investigators conducted with Lever in June, when they grilled her about her work for Cuomo and why she kept it secret from Facebook.
“It’s something that I was doing on my personal time, and I would have preferred Facebook not to know about it,” Lever said.
And while Lever testified that most of her behind-the-scenes work for Cuomo was done without Facebook’s knowledge, she added that she had gotten 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 jet in 2017.
“I asked for permission,” Lever said. “She was okay with it.”
Ethics experts have raised concerns that Lever’s work with Cuomo could put Facebook on the wrong side of New York lobbying laws, which ban registered lobbyists from giving gifts worth more than $15 to public officials. Facebook has been a registered lobbyist in New York since at least 2019, according to public records.
Since Lever works in communications, helping Cuomo navigate a public relations crisis constituted an illegal gift, according to David Grandeau, the former top ethics watchdog in New York state.
“Using your professional services and providing them to a public official for free of charge is a gift,” Grandeau told The Post in September. “It’s a misdemeanor for her and it’s a misdemeanor for Facebook. It is a clear violation.”
Andy Stone, a spokesman for Meta — now the parent company for Facebook — declined to comment on Lever’s work for Cuomo and the potential lobbying law violation. Azzopardi declined to comment. Lever did not respond to a request for comment.
Lever is one of the few Cuomo confidantes who appear to have not faced professional consequences for their roles in the scandal.
Cuomo’s brother Chris was suspended from his CNN show on Tuesday after the attorney general released damning details about how he coordinated his brother’s defense — and other confidantes including Human Rights Campaign head Alphonso David, Time’s Up executives Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan, as well as a duo of managing directors at public relations firm Kivvit have all since quit their roles or been fired since James published her investigation in August.
After The Post initially reported on Lever’s role in Cuomo’s defense, lawmakers including Republican US Rep. Elise Stefanik and Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim called on Facebook to fire her. Kim also said that “at a minimum” Facebook should hire an outside law firm to investigate Lever’s role advising the governor — a step that was taken by the Human Rights Campaign before the organization fired David.
Peter Ajemian, a former Cuomo staffer who helped the governor fight the sexual misconduct claims, scored a job at Apple over the summer. The company has not commented on his role in the Cuomo scandal.