Reaction to outcome of AG’s sexual harassment investigation into Cuomo

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Many local, regional and national leaders are responding after New York State Attorney General Letitia James released her office’s report that found Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees.

Cuomo remained defiant Tuesday following the investigation’s findings, saying that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” and appearing to reject calls to resign.

The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”

When a reporter asked President Joe Biden if he would call on Cuomo to resign, after saying in March that he would wait until the investigation was over to comment on whether or not Cuomo to resign, Biden said, "I stand by that statement." The reporter then asked him if he was now calling on Cuomo to resign. Biden answered, "Yes." When the reporter asked if Biden believed Cuomo should be impeached and removed if he does not resign, Biden said, "Let’s take one thing at a time here. I think he should resign."

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Director of Monroe County’s Planning and Development Department Ana Liss was among Cuomo’s accusers. She tweeted, "Thank you, thank you to everyone who expressed support out loud and in whispers. For hugs and hand squeezes and texts," and tagged multiple others who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Charlotte Bennett, who was the second woman to come forward, simply tweeted "Resign."

Bennett’s attorney, Debra Katz, released a statement, reading in part:

“The findings released today demonstrate what Charlotte Bennett stated publicly, at great personal cost, more than six months ago: Governor Cuomo sexually harassed her during her employment as his executive assistant and his enablers protected him and covered it up. "

Read Katz’s full statement below. Mobile users, click here.

Debra Katz Statement by News10NBC on Scribd

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement regarding the attorney general’s report:

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The Attorney General’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward.

No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.

Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment."

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy, who served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Cuomo from 2011 to 2014, released the following statement:

"I am shocked and dismayed to learn the findings of the investigation led by Attorney General James, and I applaud the courage of the women who came forward to share their experiences. Speaking out about toxic work environments and sexual harassment is difficult under any circumstances, but even more so when such behaviors are carried out by a person in a position of power. ‘Intent’ does not matter. At issue is the impact of actions.

"Everyone deserves a work environment free of harassment, retaliation, bullying, and fear. The responsibility of leaders is to establish a positive and safe work culture. It is unfortunate to see that this investigation concludes the opposite is true.

"While it is not my role to speculate on the Governor’s political future, this comprehensive report provides a path forward for accountability and expectations of our leaders."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released the following joint statement, calling for Cuomo to resign.

“As we have said before, the reported actions of the Governor were profoundly disturbing, inappropriate, and completely unacceptable. Today’s report from the New York State Attorney General substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories – and we commend the women for doing so.

The New York State Attorney General has conducted an independent, thorough and professional investigation that found the Governor violated state and federal law, had a pattern of sexually harassing current and former employees, retaliated against at least one of the accusers, and created a hostile work environment.

No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign.”

Congressman Joe Morelle released the following statement:

“The findings presented today as part of the Attorney General’s sexual misconduct investigation further underscore the need for the Governor to step down. It remains clear that he cannot continue to effectively govern and provide the leadership our state needs during these unprecedented times.”

State Sen. Samra Brouk tweeted the following statement.

"I didn’t need a report to know to believe women. It’s never been clearer that this governor needs to resign. Thank you to all the survivors who came forward. I continue to stand with you."

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said:

"We have received the Attorney General’s 168 page report containing findings of sexual harassment and misconduct committed by Governor Cuomo. The findings contained in the report are disturbing. The details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching. Our hearts go out to all the individuals who have had to endure this horrible experience. The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office.

The report has been forwarded to the members of the Judiciary Committee as well as all members of the Assembly. We will now undertake an in-depth examination of the report and its corresponding exhibits with our Assembly counsels as well the legal firm we have retained to assist us.

We will have more to say in the very near future."

Heastie later provided an update on the status of the State Assembly’s impeachment investigation.

New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy released the following statement:

“While the findings of the Attorney General’s report are deeply disturbing and confirm Governor Cuomo violated state and federal laws, they should not come as a surprise to anyone. For months, we have heard the testimonies of multiple women who bravely detailed the horrific abuse and assaults perpetrated on them by this Governor and covered up by his administration.

Sadly, this pattern of sexual harassment and abuse is only one chapter in the Cuomo book of corruption, law-breaking and sociopathic behavior. Countless lives have been destroyed by his actions throughout his tenure, but now is the moment where he must finally be held accountable.

I called for Governor Cuomo’s impeachment on February 11th, and I renew that call today. If he does not immediately resign, Speaker Carl Heastie must call for a special session to bring articles of impeachment to the floor for an up or down vote. Democrats in Albany have been protecting him for too long–time is up.”

Statement from New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins:

"This report highlights unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration. As I said, when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state. Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor. Our highest elected offices must reflect the values and integrity that they profess and New Yorkers hold dear. I thank the Attorney General and her investigators for their thorough investigation. I also wanted to give a special thank you to the courageous women who bravely stepped forward to shed light on this awful situation. We all owe them a debt of gratitude."

New York State Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson’s statement:

"Let me start by thanking the courageous women who came forward to share their truths. The Attorney General’s investigative report has been released which substantiates and corroborates the sexual harassment complaints of numerous women. The report details sex-based harassment of current and former employees that includes unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.

These findings are extremely disturbing and reflects a pattern of behavior that cannot be tolerated in any work setting but especially in public office. I stand by my original statement and again am calling on the Governor to resign immediately. He must put the families of New York first and step aside for the interest of all New Yorkers."

Click here to hear more from Bronson.

Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R,C,I-Lyons)’s statement:

“The governor needs to resign. If he doesn’t we must push forward with impeachment. It is time for the people of New York to have a governor who leads efficiently, has the best interests of New York in mind and actually respects the people they represent.”

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan’s statement:

"The report issued by the New York State Attorney General regarding sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against the Governor is deeply disturbing. The findings of her four-month investigation indicate the governor not only broke multiple laws and fostered a hostile work environment; he violated his oath of office and is no longer fit to govern effectively. His only appropriate course of action is to resign.

If he does not, the Legislature should use this report as its basis to immediately commence impeachment proceedings as outlined in the State Constitution.”

Sen. Ed Rath (R-61) released the following statement:

"The findings of the Attorney General’s report are extremely concerning and downright disgusting. The upsetting details of this report speak for themselves. If the Governor does not resign, the State Legislature must act immediately. Out of respect for the victims, further inaction regarding this matter is simply unacceptable."

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello’s response:

"The Attorney General’s report confirms what we already knew from the compelling accounts of the many brave women who came forward. Governor Cuomo used his position of power to sexually harass and abuse women, and to create a toxic workplace environment that diminished and devalued dedicated public servants. I continue to believe the Governor must resign."

Monroe County Clerk Jamie Romeo regarding the attorney general’s report:

"Almost 5 months ago, I called on Governor Cuomo to do the honorable thing and step down. In that time, the Governor has continued to attempt to intimidate accusers, minimize the impact of his own actions, and question efforts to provide a safe space for these women to be heard. Not only is this wrong, but it reinforces the challenges many women face in striving to be treated and heard as equals. With the Attorney General’s report corroborating these allegations today, Governor Cuomo must put the needs of the State first and resign. He has lost our trust and respect."

Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Zach King’s missed a statement, saying in part:

"In March, I said that if the results of Attorney General Letitia James’ exhaustive investigation confirmed allegations made against Governor Andrew Cuomo, then the Governor should resign. Today’s findings by the AG and her team corroborate these accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

First and foremost, the Monroe County Democratic Committee stands with these brave survivors. The harassment and abuse these women endured from their boss is appalling, and there is no room for this behavior in the Democratic party, nor in government or society at any level."

Monroe County Legislature Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew released the following statement:

“After the release of today’s disturbing Attorney General report, Republican Legislators renew our call for Governor Cuomo’s resignation. Countless victims who have suffered abuse at the hands of the Governor and spoke out against his mistreatment deserve justice. It’s abhorrent that Governor Cuomo has convinced the public that he is an advocate for victims, while in reality, he is one of the worst perpetrators of harassment.

"I call on all of my colleagues in County Executive Adam Bello and all Democrat Legislators to immediately join me in calling for the immediate resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee released the following joint statement:

“We are appalled at the findings of the independent investigation by the New York Attorney General. Governor Cuomo should resign from office.”

Executive Director of Common Cause/NY Susan Lerner issued an updated statement on Friday:

"The Attorney General’s report is clear: Governor Cuomo broke federal and state laws, sexually harassed his staff, state employees, and New Yorkers. He created a hostile, toxic work environment where such gender-based discrimination not only persisted but thrived.

Governor Cuomo must immediately resign. Other disgraced elected officials, like Vito Lopez, resigned within 72 hours under threat of removal. Cuomo has until noon Friday, August 6. Speaker Heastie must direct the Assembly Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings on Monday as there is ample evidence.

The gravity of the situation demands an open, transparent, and swift process that New Yorkers can easily access and evaluate. Under the circumstances, outside investigations, closed door discussions and executive sessions off the public record are inappropriate. The public has a right to know. The clock is ticking."

Click here to hear from Rochester’s chapter of the National Organization for Women on their thoughts about the report.