Cuomo resigning as New York governor amid sexual harassment scandal
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday over a barrage of sexual harassment allegations in a fall from grace a year after he was widely hailed nationally for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during the pandemic’s peak.
In a televised address, the 63-year-old Democrat emphatically denied intentionally showing any disrespect toward women but said that fighting back against what he called the “politically motivated” attack on him would subject the state to months of turmoil, and “I cannot be the cause of that.”
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government,” Cuomo said.
Watch Cuomo’s announcement in its entirety in the video player below. Mobile users: Click here.
The third-term governor’s decision, which will take effect in two weeks, was announced as momentum built in the Legislature to remove him by impeachment and after nearly the entire Democratic establishment had turned against him, with President Joe Biden joining those calling on him to resign.
It came after New York’s attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators said he subjected women to unwanted kisses; groped their breasts or buttocks or otherwise touched them inappropriately; made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives; and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former member of Congress from the Buffalo area, will become the state’s 57th governor and the first woman to hold the post. She will serve the rest of his term until 2023.
"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," Hochul said in a statement.
Cuomo still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with a number of prosecutors around the state moving to investigate him.
The string of accusations that spelled the governor’s downfall began to unfold in news reports last December and went on for months.
Cuomo called some of the allegations fabricated, forcefully denying he touched anyone inappropriately. But he acknowledged making some aides uncomfortable with comments he said he intended as playful, and he apologized for some of his behavior.
He portrayed some of the encounters as misunderstandings attributable to “generational or cultural” differences, a reference in part to his upbringing in an affectionate Italian American family.
As a defiant Cuomo clung to office, state lawmakers launched an impeachment investigation, and nearly the entire Democratic establishment in New York deserted him – not only over the accusations but also because of the discovery that his administration had concealed thousands of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients.
The harassment investigation ordered up by the attorney general and conducted by two outside lawyers corroborated the women’s accounts and added lurid new ones. Investigators also said the governor’s staff retaliated against one of his accusers by leaking confidential personnel files about her.
His tough-minded but compassionate response made for riveting television well beyond New York, and his stern warnings to people to stay home and wear masks stood in sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s brush-off of the virus. His briefings won an international Emmy Award, and he went on to write a book on leadership in a crisis.
But even those accomplishments were soon tainted when it was learned that the state’s official count of nursing home deaths had excluded many patients who had been transferred to hospitals before they succumbed. A Cuomo aide acknowledged the administration feared the true numbers would be “used against us” by the Trump White House.
Also, Cuomo’s administration was fiercely criticized for forcing nursing homes to accept patients recovering from the virus.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the state’s handling of data on nursing home deaths. In addition, the state attorney general is looking into whether Cuomo broke the law in using members of his staff to help write and promote his book, from which he stood to make more than $5 million.
The governor had also increasingly come under fire over his rough and sometimes vindictive treatment of fellow politicians and his own staff, with former aides telling stories of a brutal work environment.
During his resignation speech, he directly addressed his three daughters, saying: “I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart: I never did, and I never would, intentionally disrespect a woman or treat a woman differently than I would want them treated. Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is all about.”
WATCH: In-Depth: Political Science Professor on Cuomo’s resignation (mobile users, click here):