New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has resigned from office after a bombshell report released by state Attorney General Letitia James (D) found he sexually harassed 11 women, including some who worked in his office, and violated state and federal laws.
Cuomo had been inundated with calls for his resignation and faced an impeachment hearing in the state Assembly that appeared all but guaranteed to spark a trial in the state Senate. Should he have survived potential impeachment proceedings, he also faced daunting reelection prospects in 2022.
But he appeared defiant to the end.
His resignation followed a 45-minute news conference from Rita Glavin, his attorney, during which she rebutted the allegations in the report and attacked the credibility of the investigators and women who came forward with accusations, as well as the media that covered them.
But Cuomo, in his own press conference immediately after, announced he would be stepping down in 14 days.
“This is one of the most challenging times for government in a generation. Government really needs to function today. Government needs to perform. It is a matter of life and death, government operations. And wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that,” Cuomo said.
“I think given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore that’s what I’ll do,” he said.
His resignation also follows widespread questions about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the state’s nursing homes.
James’s office launched the independent investigation in March after several women publicly accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct. Investigators found Cuomo engaged in inappropriate conduct with current and former staffers and at least one state trooper who was assigned to his protective detail.
The report was finalized after attorneys interviewed 179 individuals and reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence.
“These interviews and pieces of evidence reveal a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws. The independent investigation found that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments,” James said last week.
The blockbuster findings reignited calls from his resignation from both Democrats and Republicans who said his actions were beyond the pale.
“This report highlights unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration. As I said when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said in a statement shortly after the report’s release. “Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor.”
Prior to Cuomo’s resignation, the number of Democrats who called for his departure had snowballed to most Democrats in the state legislature, the head of the state party, even to the pinnacles of Washington.
The sexual harassment scandal compounded the criticism Cuomo faced after it was revealed his office intentionally undercounted the number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes by several thousand and sought to hide the true tally, in part over fears that a higher count would be wielded as a political cudgel by former President Trump.
Cuomo had apologized for both scandals but denied wrongdoing toward any woman he’s interacted with, maintaining his conduct should not be considered sexual harassment.
Even as the calls for his resignation piled up, he remained defiant and insisted he would not leave office.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” he said after James released the damning report.
That defiance continued even in Cuomo’s remarks Tuesday, during which he said there were “flaws” in James’s report.
“That should concern all New Yorkers, because when there is a bias or lack of fairness in the justice system, it is a concern for everyone, not just those immediately affected,” he said.
The Tuesday press conference from Glavin offered a point-by-point rebuttal of the report.
“Because of what has happened since Aug. 3, with the press conference and a report, that there’s no question in my mind was designed and meant to devastate Gov. Cuomo and his chamber,” Glavin said, referencing the date James released her report. “And for the last eight days it has been a pile on with people judging facts when they didn’t have all the facts.”
Glavin contended that the two main investigators, Anne Clark and Joon Kim, “brought their biases” and a “predisposition” when investigating the allegations against the governor.
Even just before announcing he would depart, Cuomo said it was his instinct to “fight through this controversy,” maintaining there were political machinations behind the report and an unfair narrative being spread in the press and social media.
“If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand,” he said. “I believe that.”
Prior to the announcement, press reports circulated detailing Cuomo’s intention to work through the scandal and try to beat an effort to oust him. But toward the end of his remarks Tuesday, Cuomo seemed to recognize the whirlwind surrounding the allegations and spoke directly to his daughters.
“I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I never did, and I never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated,” he said. “Your dad made mistakes and he apologized and he learned from it. And that is what life is all about.”
Cuomo’s resignation marks an ignominious end to a political career that spanned decades. He served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration before becoming the New York attorney general and later governor. His popularity soared during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic with his daily, televised press conferences only to see his approval rating crater in light of the sexual harassment and nursing home scandals.
His resignation will elevate Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to the governorship, making her the first female executive of the Empire State.
Hochul will take power in two weeks at a crucial time for New York, which like much of the nation is grappling with a rise in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant. But Cuomo said Hochul would use the next 14 days to get up to speed and would be ready to take over the governorship when his resignation takes effect.
“Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent,” Cuomo said. “This transition must be seamless.”