EXCLUSVE — Lindsay Nielsen was a local investigative journalist in New York who says she was intimidated, bullied and personally attacked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration but is hopeful that her story will stop the Democratic governor from using the same tactics on anyone else.
Nielsen, a former News10 investigative reporter, told Fox News she broke down in tears while waiting for her morning Starbucks order last week when she read similar claims by journalist Morgan Pehme, who recently detailed threats he received from a Cuomo aide.
“I just started crying,” Nielsen told Fox News on Monday morning. “I was sitting in my car and was like bawling my eyes out. I was just overwhelmed because I had very similar experiences and it all just kind of came flooding back to me.”
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“I don’t want this behavior to happen to any other reporter,” Nielsen said. “That gave me the courage to have the confidence. I knew it was wrong, back then, the behavior, but when you’re in those types of situation you often don’t really realize the impact until later on.”
Pehme’s comments encouraged Nielsen to come forward, which she did with a statement on Sunday.
“‘You have a vendetta against him don’t you!’ That was the last time I allowed someone connected to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration to harass and manipulate me,” Nielsen wrote in a statement. “It was during one of the many accusatory and threatening phone calls I received by his staff members that I realized this behavior was never going to stop. It was shortly thereafter that I decided to leave my job at News10.”
Nielsen left the Albany-based News10 in 2017 as an investigative reporter after joining the network back in 2012. She told Fox News that “one of the reasons” she left was because of abusive conduct from the Cuomo administration.
Nielsen said that Cuomo’s administration has multiple “tactics” used to intimidate her.
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“They would call me late at night, you know 9-10-11 o’clock at night … it felt like that was also a tactic, like, I’m no longer in a professional setting and they’re doing this and making threats and yelling and just trying to intimidate and get me to not continue on with my reporting,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said Cuomo aides would typically ignore her any time she was working on a story that the governor’s team didn’t appreciate until the story aired and the silence often turned into “personal attacks,” yelling and screaming.
“They would never get back to me, I would call and call and call numerous people, numerous aides and communications people and email until I was blue in the face,” Nielsen said. “Any single time I had anything, giving them an opportunity to comment and they would never do that. They would never get back to me. They would wait until the story aired and then I would get a barrage of phone calls with threats to talk to the news director. You know, ‘Change the title, change the story,’ and sometimes it worked.”
Nielsen was also regularly promised exclusive stories related to the Cuomo administration that often turned out to be a nonstory.
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“It was never really what it should have been,” she said, noting that the tactic resulted in a roller coaster of emotions.
“I remember one time in the newsroom to the point where my assistant news director came over and was kind of like patting me on the back and trying to comfort me and calm me down,” she said
Nielsen felt that Cuomo’s team was purposely showing her the “intimidation power” the governor had over local media that made her question whether the powerful Democrat would derail her career.
“When you see it work here and there… that’s intimidating as well, it was just very overwhelming,” she said. “There is a lot of influence with this administration. I had a fear that if I wanted to go into [public relations] in New York State, would I be able to do that? Because I have this administration that treated me this way and, you know, my name comes up in a job search, are they going to put me on the bottom of the list? Am I on some Cuomo blacklist? These are things that are talked about and joked about in the newsroom but for me it was real.”
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The Cuomo administration is being accused of covering up the state’s COVID nursing home deaths following the Democrat’s controversial policy that ordered COVID-positive patients into assisted living facilities in the early months of the pandemic. The nursing home scandal coincides with a separate scandal, as Cuomo was hit with multiple accusations of sexual misconduct by former aides, sparking calls for an independent investigation into the alleged misconduct.
But Nielsen said Cuomo’s team has “the power to kill stories” at the local level and wouldn’t be surprised if similar maneuvers have been used to bury damning news at the national level.
“I saw it happen. I wouldn’t misjudge the power of the intimidation and the tactics,” she said.
CNN has famously seen its reputation suffer after the liberal network spent months putting Cuomo on a pedestal. The governor’s younger brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, conducted a series of playful, widely condemned conversations masqueraded as interviews where New York’s nursing home issues were largely avoided. The “Cuomo Prime Time” namesake once admitted he isn’t objective when covering his brother and CNN reinstated a ban Chris Cuomo covering his older brother once the scandal made national headlines.
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Meanwhile, CNN, MSNBC, ABC’s “World News Tonight,” CBS’ “Evening News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” all ignored recent sexual harassment claims against Cuomo the day they broke. It’s unclear if the national media was intimidated to cover Cuomo, simply protecting a former liberal darling or something in between, but Nielsen wants to ensure he doesn’t bully the media going forward.
“I don’t want this behavior to continue and I don’t want people to think that it’s acceptable,” Nielsen said. “I just hope that a message is sent that this behavior is not going to be tolerated.”
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report