Andrew Cuomo resigns in wake of damning report on sexual harassment. New York governor announced that he was stepping aside and said his resignation will be effective in 14 days. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has resigned following an investigation by the state attorney general that found he sexually harassed multiple women, most of whom worked for him, and also retaliated after some made complaints.
The governor made a public announcement on Tuesday morning that he was stepping aside and said his resignation will be effective in 14 days.
He began defiantly by criticizing Attorney General Letitia James’s report and warning New Yorkers about the dangers of “a bias or a lack of fairness in the justice system”, then said he thought his behavior was acceptable but acknowledged that the 11 women James said he harassed were probably “truly offended” and said “for that I deeply, deeply apologize”.
The Democratic governor had lost the support of the party establishment, with Joe Biden calling on Cuomo to resign and similar demands issued by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of New York’s US Senators – one of whom is Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer – two Democratic New York congressmen, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and a host of Republicans in Washington DC.
Cuomo’s own No 2, the New York lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, had called his conduct “repulsive and unlawful”.
Hochul said: “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers. As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York state’s 57th governor.”
She will now become the first woman to lead the state. The state assembly majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will step up to become the lieutenant governor. She called the resignation a demonstration of “our ability to build a more accountable system of government”.
The governor had presented himself as a champion of the revived #MeToo movement sparked by accusations against the now-convicted film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017. But on Tuesday, Cuomo said that in his mind he had “never crossed the line with anyone” then added: “I did not realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
He also said there was “no factual basis” for the most serious allegation against him. This is that he groped his former aide Brittany Commisso’s breast, which prompted a criminal complaint that is being investigated by the sheriff’s office in Albany county, where the state capital and Cuomo’s executive offices and mansion are located.
But he concluded: “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.”
Cuomo had initially stood defiant on the day the New York attorney general, Letitia James, had announced the findings of a five-month investigation in which she concluded he had harassed 11 women and violated civil law against workplace misconduct.
The 63-year-old governor issued a video address shortly after James issued the report of the investigation, on Tuesday 3 August, in which he said: “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances” and added “It’s just not who I am.”
Campaigners against sexual harassment and assault were outraged.
But his political future was dangling by a thread amid moves to impeach the governor and force him from office by the New York legislative assembly in the state capital of Albany.
On Tuesday, it was unclear whether the impeachment would proceed. A conviction would bar Cuomo from running for public office again in New York.
The assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn told CNN: “Resignation will not bar him from running in the future.”
Within three days of James’s report being released, four district attorneys in different parts of New York announced they intended to review the evidence James had gathered to assess the likelihood of criminal prosecution.
James’s explosive 165-page report had delivered a mountain of damning and often graphic evidence against Cuomo, a leading political figure who served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet and rose to the governorship in the footsteps of his father, Mario Cuomo, a Democratic powerhouse who served three terms as New York governor.
Among the allegations was that Cuomo groped Commisso’s breast after getting her alone in his office, and that he ran his finger down the spine of a female state trooper assigned to protect him.
James had noted that was significant corroboration and other supporting evidence relating to the allegations against the governor.
“I believe these 11 women,” she said last week. James also accused Cuomo of creating a “toxic workplace” and having violated federal and state civil laws against workplace harassment and retaliation, noting that any criminal charges would be the purview of prosecutors, not her office.
Cuomo became a pandemic political star in 2020 through daily live television briefings in which he gave plain assessments of the grave situation and the need for more resources for hospitals to combat Covid-19, at a time when Donald Trump was dismissing the dangers and the nation’s needs from the White House.
Cuomo’s reputation for his deft handling of the coronavirus outbreak was later tarnished, however, by accusations that he misreported the numbers of deaths in nursing homes.
James’s office is still investigating whether Cuomo used public resources in writing a book that prematurely touted his success. The governor’s frequent TV interviews with his brother, Chris Cuomo, a CNN show host, at the height of the pandemic and amid revelations that the two discussed his responses to the sexual harassment allegations, raised further controversy.
A native New Yorker, born in the borough of Queens, Cuomo graduated from Fordham University and Albany Law School and later became the attorney general of New York state, the position now held by James.
He started work as the campaign manager for his father, eventually becoming governor himself in 2011. He had been re-elected twice and had been discussed as a potential candidate for US president. Cuomo had been expected to run for a fourth term as governor next year.