The Real Reason Andrew Cuomo And Kerry Kennedy Divorced

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, stabilizing forces are few and far between, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has inadvertently become one of them. His daily press briefings and updates on the virus in New York City — the COVID epicenter in the United States — have placed the three-term governor as one of the leading figures in the fight against the disease.

Unfortunately, in the midst of grappling with the pandemic, Cuomo's family is also grieving the deaths of Maeve McKean and her 8-year-old son, Gideon, who were killed in a boating accident in the Chesapeake Bay in April 2020. They were cousins of Cuomo's three daughters — Mariah, Cara, and Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo — and the niece and great-nephew of his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, who is the daughter of assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. 

Gov. Cuomo addressed the boating accident during a press briefing in April 2020, acknowledging that the coronavirus had left his family bereft of the ability to grieve with their loved ones. "The most difficult level is the human level, it is for me, anyway," he said. "My daughters' cousins have a tragedy. They can't hug each other, they can't be with each other to grieve together."

Unfortunately, the governor's statement wasn't his first regarding a tragic death in the Kennedy family. In fact, an eerily similar situation from the past may have been one of the factors that tore apart his marriage to Kerry and unraveled his connection to the Kennedy political dynasty. 

Cuomo may have been looking for love...and political clout

Like many Kennedy unions, the courtship between Andrew Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy had the hallmarks of a fairy-tale — according to the press, at least.

As journalist Michael Shnayerson described in a 2015 piece for Vanity Fair, the pair met in the late 1980s, when Cuomo launched a non-profit to help the homeless, and Kennedy, a noted human rights activist, was setting up her own non-profit, the lauded Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, named after her father. With similar interests and aspirations, the coupling made sense, but it also served as a symbolic melding of two American political dynasties: the noblesse-like Kennedys and the ambitious Cuomos, whose patriarch, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, typified the intergenerational immigrant success story.

Although the romance between the two seemed genuine, Andrew also knew a union between them would be valuable political capital. According to Shnayerson, he purportedly secretly met with select members of the press to ask their opinions on a Cuomo-Kennedy engagement before he even proposed. "Some of the journalists were acquaintances at best. Appreciative as they were of candor, the pre-proposal talk struck them as odd," wrote Shnayerson. "Why would he share this intimate plan with them before he broached it to Kerry? And why worry about how the media would perceive it?"

Some sources believe Cuomo's strategizing may have foretold the implosion of the marriage before it even began.

Andrew and Kerry's wedding signaled the rise of 'Cuomolot'

Andrew Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy wed in 1990, and their union became known as "Cuomolot" in the press — a nod to Kerry's uncle, former President John F. Kennedy, and his administration's association with the Camelot of Arthurian legend. But the marriage proved to be anything but a peaceable kingdom. According to the Cuomo biography, The Contender, written by Vanity Fair reporter Michael Shnayerson, behind the facade of political royalty, this alliance was fraught with infighting and cataclysmic tension.

Red flags were present from the very beginning. According to Shnayerson's book, Cuomo placed an embargo on family toasts at the couple's wedding reception. That decision reportedly bucked a long-held Kennedy tradition and left the family aghast. "No toasts? The Kennedys were astonished," Shnayerson wrote. "Toasts were the best part of a wedding, the more irreverent the better. But that, it seemed, was exactly why Andrew forbade them. He didn't want the risk of any off-color stories. This is no fun, the Kennedys muttered among themselves."

Unfortunately, the dynamic only worsened from there.

Cuomo was 'too tightly wound' for the Kennedy clan.

Andrew Cuomo never gelled with the extended Kennedy clan and was allegedly disdainful of the family's relaxed camaraderie, according to Cuomo biographer Michael Shnayerson. "He hated the gatherings in Hyannis; he always felt like the odd man out. The joshing around, the freewheeling talks — Andrew was just too tightly wound to join in," he wrote in The Contender (via Vanity Fair).

At one point, Cuomo reportedly stopped going to the Kennedy family compound on Cape Cod entirely, thus distancing his wife, Kerry Kennedy, from her family as well. When Cuomo began working for President Bill Clinton's administration as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he allegedly forbade friends and family members from socializing in his and Kerry's home. According to Shnayerson, "The new rule reinforced the doubts the family had had about Andrew from the start: he wasn't fun; he didn't get fun. He was, to put it mildly, a spoilsport." 

All that criticism could arguably be attributed simply to scuttlebutt and challenging family dynamics, but an unexpected and painful loss may have played a big role in what appeared to be Andrew and Kerry's steep marital decline.

Did Andrew Cuomo 'bully' the Kennedy family?

Some say Andrew Cuomo's behavior following a Kennedy family tragedy created an irreversible schism between the governor and his in-laws. 

In 1997, 39-year- old lawyer Michael Kennedy was killed in a skiing accident, and according to The Contender (via Vanity Fair), the Kennedy family decided to close ranks and mourn in private. Cuomo reportedly took a different tack when he and his brother, Chris Cuomo, slipped away from a gathering in the Kennedy family's Hyannis Port compound to speak to the press lurking outside. Author Michael Shnayerson claims the grieving family was traumatized by the actions of the brothers Cuomo. 

Rory Kennedy (pictured left), who was with Michael the day her brother died and who attempted to save her brother's life at the scene, reportedly asked Andrew why he spoke to reporters. According to Shnayeson's account, Andrew believed "the family was lucky that he was there to handle the moment. Speechless, Rory fled to her room upstairs." According to Douglas Kennedy, Andrew's actions marked a turning point. That's reportedly when he started to think of Kerry Kennedy's husband as nothing more than an opportunistic "bully."

Politics brought them together and tore them apart

Andrew Cuomo's strained relations with his wife's family must have been tough, but when combined with the pressures of a failed gubernatorial bid, what remained of "Cuomolot" soon crumbled.

Cuomo's first attempt to follow in the steps of his famous father — former three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo — was more or less a disaster. Voters were expected to favor Andrew's 2002 gubernatorial campaign, but instead, the Democrat reportedly upended his chances after sharply criticizing Republican incumbent George Pataki's leadership (pictured right) in response to 9/11. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Cuomo rejected the suggestion that he was trying to use the terrorist attack for political advantage," but regardless of intent, Cuomo's tactic for taking down Pataki backfired. 

Cuomo reportedly pulled out of the gubernatorial primary in an effort to save face from a shattering defeat by Carl McCall (who eventually lost to Pataki). The day after the primary, on Sept. 11, 2002, Kerry Kennedy "demanded a divorce," according to The Contender (via Vanity Fair). "She had lived up to her side of the deal, she told friends, being the loyal candidate's wife throughout the campaign, not letting a hint slip of the true state of their marriage. But now, enough was enough."

Andrew felt 'betrayed' by Kerry's cheating scandal

Even though Andrew Cuomo's failed 2002 campaign for governor of New York reportedly played a significant role in the unraveling of his marriage to Kerry Kennedy, some sources allege that politics wasn't the only reason their union unraveled. 

According to The Contender (via Vanity Fair), the gubernatorial campaign "made Kerry appreciate Andrew's capacity for hard work, and she had no doubt that he would make a good governor. Her problem with her husband was strictly personal." The book claims that she wanted "more time with their families (particularly her own): more child-care options, more camaraderie, more love and support." 

Perhaps Kennedy found what she was looking for in professional polo player Bruce Colley because the tabloids had a field day reporting on an alleged affair between the very married "polo-playing Romeo" and "cheatin' Kerry." According to Cuomo's divorce lawyer, the politician felt "betrayed and saddened by his wife's conduct" with someone he'd apparently considered a friend, per CBS News. Kennedy supposedly told Cuomo to pound salt and move out.

While their divorce marked the proverbial fall of "Cuomolot," the aftershocks have continued to shape political discourse. 

The fall of 'Cuomolot' was only the beginning

The breakup between Andrew Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy dragged on for years, and the reputations of both parties have taken some punches. They allegedly locked horns over child support for years, with Kennedy's camp reportedly accusing Cuomo of holding out on his three daughters: Michaela (born in 1997) and twins Cara and Mariah (born in 1995). In 2014, Kennedy went to trial and was acquitted of DUI after testifying that she accidentally took the wrong prescription pills the day she swerved off the road into another vehicle, per CNN

Both exes are still active in high-profile social circles. She's authored books about Catholicism, human rights, and her family legacy and serves as president of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights foundation. Meanwhile, his handling of the coronavirus in New York has made him a "social media superstar" and possibly an eventual candidate for president of the United States. Neither Kerry nor Andrew remarried after their divorce, and though "Cuomolot" did not endure, their marriage changed the course of American politics in ways that are still measurable today.