New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Tuesday that he would finally “stepping aside” from office in the wake of a damning state Attorney General report that found he sexually harassed multiple women and mounting political pressure for him to resign, marking a stunning and disgraceful downfall to the Democrat’s three-term run as governor.
“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in a live stream speech. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do. Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. I cannot be the cause of that.”
“This situation by its current trajectory will generate months of political and legal controversy. That is what is going to happen. That is how the political wind is blowing. It will consume government. It will cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Cuomo added, calling the impeachment investigation into him “politically motivated.”
The resignation from Cuomo comes nearly a week after a report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James concluded that the governor sexually harassed 11 women, both current and former staff members, finding “patterns” of inappropriate behavior that included both “unwanted” touching and comments of a “suggestive and sexual nature.” The 165-page report also found that Cuomo and his aides unlawfully retaliated against at least one of the women for making her complaints public and fostered a “hostile” and toxic work environment for women.
Cuomo, in his remarks, addressed the attorney general’s report, disputing it as all “false,” despite authorizing James to conduct an independent investigation. However, the scandal-plagued governor offered his deepest apologizes for some of his behavior that he insisted doesn’t amount to sexual harassment and said that he now takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
“The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false,” Cuomo said.
“This is not to say that there are not 11 women I truly offended. There are. And for that, I deeply, deeply apologize. I thought a hug and putting my arm around a staff person while taking a picture was friendly, but she found it to be too forward. I kissed a woman on the cheek at a wedding and thought I was being nice, but she felt that it was too aggressive. I have slipped and called people ‘honey,’ ‘sweetheart,’ and ‘darling.’ I meant it to be endearing. But women found it dated and offensive. I said on national TV to a doctor wearing PPE and giving me a Covid nasal swab, ‘you make that gown look good.’ I was joking. Obviously, otherwise, I wouldn’t have said it on national TV. But she found it disrespectful. I take full responsibility for my actions,” he added.
Cuomo’s fall from grace is a reversal of fortune for a governor who was hailed a national leader just a year ago. After the AG report was released, multiple prominent national Democrats, including President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-NY), New York Senators — Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Kristen Gillibrand, as well as all of the 19 New York Democratic Congressional delegates, called on Cuomo to resign.
However, Cuomo resisted the mounting calls to resign for over a week since the release of the AG report and said as a born and raised New Yorker, it was in his “instinct to fight through this controversy,” but then he claimed it was all pinned against him as “politically motivated.”
“I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I’m a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated, I believe it is unfair, and it is untruthful, and I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society,” Cuomo said. “This situation and moment are not about the facts. It’s not about the truth. It’s not about thoughtful analysis. It’s not about how do we make the system better. This is about politics, and our political system today is too often driven by the extremes.”
Statewide, over two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers and all Republicans supported calls to impeach the governor, marking Cuomo’s ousting if he had continued moving forward in refusing to resign all but certain.
At least five New York state counties attorney general offices — including Albany, Manhattan, Nassau County, and Westchester County have launched separate criminal probes shortly after the report substantiated the allegations that Cuomo did forcible touch some of the women of those who have come forward.
Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor, will now become New York’s first female governor once she is sworn in after Cuomo’s resignation goes into effect in 14 days. Cuomo vowed to make the transfer of power “seamless” in Hochul commended the governor on this decision as the “right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers.”
Prior to Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal, the governor was already under fire and facing a serious federal probe amid revelation his administration grossly under-reported and cover-up of the total number of COVID-19-related nursing home deaths. Along with the governor’s rampant sexual harassment and nursing home scandal, Cuomo also faces inquiries into the $5.1 million book deal he inked for his pandemic memoir. On Monday, the New York Assembly Judiciary Committee, as part of its impeachment inquiry, revealed that they have “detailed discussions” with its lawyers about Cuomo’s book deal,