Cuomo resigns after probe finds he sexually harassed 11 women
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned from office Tuesday, one week after an investigation concluded that he had sexually harassed 11 women and retaliated against his accusers.
At a press conference Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he would step down from the office. His resignation will be effective in 14 days.
“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, because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you,” he said.
The decision to resign spared Cuomo, who has been governor since 2011 and is the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a potentially lengthy impeachment trial in the New York Assembly that was likely to have ousted him from power.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is now preparing to step in as governor. A native of Buffalo, Hochul will be the first female governor of New York. She had been serving under Cuomo since 2014 and has a long history of working in New York state politics, having served in Congress and as a county clerk.
Hochul wouldn’t be the first lieutenant governor to assume the gubernatorial position. In 2008, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned following a prostitution scandal and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, David Paterson.
On Aug. 3, state Attorney General Letitia James announced the results of an investigation into allegations made against Cuomo by women who worked for or alongside him. According to James, the report revealed “a deeply disturbing yet clear picture” in which the governor “sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.”
The 168-page report also found that the governor’s conduct created “a hostile work environment for women” and that his staffers had retaliated against at least one of his accusers, who included gubernatorial aides and a New York state trooper assigned to protect him. The investigation took nearly five months and included interviews with 179 people.
Initially, Cuomo insisted he would not leave office because of the investigation, saying in a taped recording that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” the Associated Press reported.
As more women came forward to detail their claims against Cuomo, he repeatedly insisted on his innocence, stating that his touching and kissing represented a generational and cultural divide between him and his accusers. In a much-maligned video statement released after James’s press conference, he portrayed himself as a misunderstood champion for sexual harassment victims. He also released numerous photos showing other politicians touching people, including one of former President Barack Obama hugging a Hurricane Sandy victim.
At Tuesday's press conference, Cuomo continued to remain defiant in the face of the claims against him. “My instinct is to fight through this controversy, because I truly believe that it is politically motivated," he said. "I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful."
“In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate, and I should have — no excuses,” he continued.
Even as he shifted tone, getting teary-eyed before announcing his resignation, Cuomo did not admit any wrongdoing. Referring to the controversy surrounding him, he said, “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing state government should be doing, and I cannot be the cause of that.”
In a statement issued after Cuomo's announcement, James said that his resignation "closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it's an important step towards justice."
“I thank Governor Cuomo for his contributions to our state," James said. "The ascension of our Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, will help New York enter a new day. We must continue to build on the progress already made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state."
Prosecutors in Manhattan and Albany have already opened criminal investigations into the governor's actions, and at least three counties have asked James’s office for material as they pursue their own inquiries.
The first public allegation against Cuomo was made in late February, and over the ensuing weeks a half-dozen more women stepped forward to accuse him of harassment and misconduct. Many prominent New York Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Reps. Jerry Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called for Cuomo to step down in March. Following James’s report, that number grew to include President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a number of union leaders and the New York Times editorial board.
“I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of,” Cuomo said at a briefing in March as the scandal escalated. At the time, he said those calling on him to step down were “playing politics and bowing to cancel culture.”
“Politicians who don’t know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and then an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous,” he said. “The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance. That, my friends, is politics at its worst.”
It was a dramatic fall from grace, after Cuomo was lauded for his COVID-19 briefings in the spring of 2020, winning an Emmy and publishing a book in October titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic.” He was first elected governor in 2010, and also served as the state’s attorney general and as secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration. His father, Mario, was also a three-term governor of New York. His brother, Chris, an anchor at CNN, has been criticized for privately helping the governor manage his scandal.
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