The political fallout from alleged sexual harassment by Sam Hoyt is turning into a political battle between the leaders of Erie County's two main political parties.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy is going after Democrats, after Hoyt admitted his departure from Empire State Development was triggered by his paying hush money in a sexual harassment case. The GOP leader says Hoyt was so close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the governor had to know what was going on, something the governor's office denies.
"Andrew Cuomo, this is his close political confidant. I don't believe that Sam Hoyt would ever act without permission from Governor Andrew Cuomo," says Langworthy. "And if he was going to enter into a settlement of that stature - that's a big number, 50 grand, to buy somebody's silence - I tend to believe that he looked upstairs in his own office for permission to do so."
The Republican chairman sees it as a pattern of Democrats taking money from sexual harassers, like former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and being reluctant to give it back after exposure. Langworthy says it is about the money.
"It ties back to politics when Harvey Weinstein was a great supporter of Governor Cuomo and many Democrats across the country - and many of them even though they claim to be the party that is first and foremost on women's issues and oftentimes mischaracterizes Republicans as being anti-woman," he says.
Democratic County Chairman Jeremy Zellner lashed back.
"For Nick Langworthy to stand up and shout from the rooftops, this chairman is one of the main reasons that we have an admitted sexual assaulter in the White House in Donald Trump," Zellner said. "He and his organization's candidates this year were first in line to support Donald Trump to be our president."
Zellner says his party fights sexual harassment.
"The fact that they are using this as a political tool is despicable," he says. "Of course, we have a zero-tolerance policy at ECDC for sexual harassment. We were the first to call on Dennis Gabryszak to resign, before anyone else had to ask us. We came out and said that if this is true, he should resign immediately. And Sam Hoyt is gone from state government."
Langworthy rejected comparisons to the videotape of President Donald Trump admitting his past bad behavior toward women and former President George H.W. Bush apologizing for putting his hands on two different women.