New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ignored calls to resign and again denied engaging in sexual harassment, even after the state’s attorney general released a damning report outlining allegations from 11 women and concluding that he violated state and federal law.
“I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said in a videotaped statement, two hours after Attorney General Letitia James announced the results of an investigative report.
“I am 63 years old,” Cuomo continued. “I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am.”
The governor seemed to dismiss the report as politically motivated, even though James is a Democrat as are some of Cuomo’s accusers. “Politics and bias are interwoven through every aspect of this situation,” he said.
“Trial by newspaper or biased reviews are not the way to find the facts in this matter,” Cuomo said.
As he has before, Cuomo again suggested that his conduct was misinterpreted. “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” he said, as he directed viewers to a document on his website. He also defended himself against allegations of unwanted hugging and kissing by showing a series of pictures of him interacting with his mother, as well as women and men.
“It is meant to convey warmth, nothing more,” he said. “Indeed there are hundreds if not thousands of photos of me using the exact same gesture. I do it with everyone, black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.”
Even before the report was released, Cuomo already had faced calls from some of the state’s top Democrats to step aside. Added to the list was the group Time’s Up, which called on the governor to resign immediately.
“The findings of the investigation further cement the fact that the powerful can no longer hide behind their influence and threats when people they’ve harmed are demanding accountability and justice,” the group said in a statement. “The independent investigation, which included 74,000 pieces of evidence and 179 witnesses, found that Governor Cuomo violated both federal and state laws, and that a toxic and hostile work environment existed. He has failed to protect the women who worked in New York State government and therefore shouldn’t be permitted to govern.”
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Cuomo to resign, as did members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of House Democratic leadership. After Cuomo’s remarks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) again said that Cuomo should step down, having first called for his resignation in March.
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would be next in line should Cuomo be removed, wrote on Twitter, “Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The AG’s investigation has documented repulsive & unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women & admire their courage coming forward.”
She added, “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.”