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Despite increasing calls for him to resign, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday rejected the findings of an investigation from the state attorney general that found the Democratic governor had sexually harassed multiple women.
New York Attorney General Letitia James released the report late Tuesday morning, saying at a press conference that Cuomo had “sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws. The independent investigation found that Gov. Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.”
In a video statement released two hours later, Cuomo said, “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” and painted himself as a champion of sexual assault victims, apologizing to Charlotte Bennett, one of his accusers, who the governor said he was trying to help. Cuomo said there were cultural and generational differences in how his behavior was received, and added he would institute new sexual harassment policies for the state.
The video statement was overlaid with numerous photos of Cuomo kissing and touching people, including former President Bill Clinton. Additionally, an 85-page report released Tuesday by the governor, in which he attempts to refute the allegations, contains pages of photos of him and other politicians hugging and kissing people, including a photo of then-President Barack Obama hugging a Hurricane Sandy victim.
Following the report’s publication, the state's two Democratic U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — who had called for Cuomo to resign in March — released a statement saying, "The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign." State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, also a Democrat, said in her own statement, "It should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor."
Three House members from the New York delegation — including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of Democratic leadership — said it was time for Cuomo “to do the right thing for the people of New York State and resign." The state Legislature could still impeach the governor.
During an event at the White House late Tuesday afternoon, President Biden said that he believed Cuomo should resign, but didn't answer questions about a potential impeachment or prosecution. Biden had previously said during a March interview with ABC News that Cuomo should resign if the accusations were confirmed by the attorney general's report.
Investigators said 11 women had accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, with the first claim made publicly in late February by Lindsey Boylan, a former official in Cuomo’s administration. As public accusations mounted by mid-March, a majority of state legislators called on the governor to resign, as did New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Reps. Jerry Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both Empire State Democrats.
At the time, Cuomo criticized the lawmakers, saying they 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.”
The report Tuesday revealed new accusations against Cuomo, including from a New York state trooper assigned to protect him. The trooper accused the governor of touching her, kissing her and making inappropriate comments that she said he did not make toward her male colleagues. The investigation took nearly five months and included interviews with 179 people.
Cuomo had consistently denied the allegations as they accrued over late winter and into spring.
“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable, and I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain,” he said at a briefing in March. “That is the last thing I would ever want to do.
“I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of,” he added.
It’s been a dramatic fall from grace after Cuomo was lauded for his COVID-19 briefings last spring, winning an Emmy and publishing a book in October titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic.” He is also under scrutiny for his handling of assisted-living facilities during the pandemic, including accusations that the state hid the actual number of deaths.
Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010. Prior to holding his current position, he served as the state’s attorney general and as secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration. Cuomo’s father, Mario, was also a three-term governor of New York. His brother, Chris, is a CNN anchor who has been criticized for privately helping the governor manage the scandal.
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