New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he would resign in two weeks over a sexual harassment scandal that crippled his government and said he did not want to distract the state from important tasks to be done.
Cuomo’s shock announcement on a live stream from his Manhattan office came minutes after his attorney, in her own statement to reporters, again denied allegations that he sexually molested anyone during the Democrat’s three terms.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will replace Cuomo and become the first female governor of the Empire State.
Cuomo’s resignation comes a week after a scathing attorney general report found he sexually molested current and former employees, as well as a police officer assigned to his protection group, and women outside the government.
It also comes that at least five district attorneys are investigating possible crimes by Cuomo against some of the women or have requested evidence from the AG’s report.
Cuomo, 63, said he was motivated to step down to avoid months of distraction for the state, which remains grappling with the Covid pandemic, from almost certain impeachment on allegations that he sexually molested at least 11 women.
“Given the circumstances, the best way to help now is to step aside and let the government go back to the government,” said Cuomo.
“And that’s why I’m going to do this, because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.”
While Cuomo continued to deny some of the more serious claims against him, he admitted that he had offended some of his accusers with what he believed to be friendly or casual physical contact and comments that were normal for men of his generation.
“In my opinion, I haven’t crossed the line with anyone,” he said. “But I didn’t realize to what extent the line was being redrawn.”
“Thank you for letting me serve you. It was the honor of your life, ”said Cuomo.
“Godd bless you.”
Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat who turns 63 this month, said in a tweet, “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It’s right and in the best interests of New Yorkers.”
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is the next to succeed, I am ready to lead as the 57th governor of New York State,” wrote Hochul.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden has not spoken to Hochul but noted, “We look forward to working with her.”
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul speaks in Westchester stands united against anti-Semitism and hate rallies in the Jewish community center of Mid-Westchester.
Lev Radin | LightRakete | Getty Images
Attorney General Letitia James, herself a Democrat, said last week that Cuomo’s behavior violated state and federal laws.
In a CBS News interview aired Monday, Cuomo’s executive assistant Brittany Commisso described how the governor felt her chest in one incident and then rubbed her buttocks during another encounter at the Executive Mansion in Albany after suggesting they take a selfie photo together.
“What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law,” said Commisso.
James said in a statement Tuesday after Cuomo announced his resignation: “Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it is an important step towards justice.”
“I thank Governor Cuomo for his contribution to our state. The rise of our Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will help New York begin a new day,” said James. “We must continue to build on the advances we have made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state. I know that our state, with Lieutenant Governor Hochul at the helm, is in good hands, and I look forward to continuing to work with you. “
Cuomo’s decision to resign follows calls for his resignation from a wave of Democrats, including Biden and members of the state’s Congressional delegation – including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand – and members of the New York Legislature.
On Sunday, Cuomo’s top adviser, Melissa DeRosa, who was accused in the AG’s report of being a key figure in defaming one of the governor’s most prominent accusers, resigned.
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Following the publication of the AG’s report, Hochul said she believed Cuomo’s accusers and called the governor’s behavior towards these women “repulsive and unlawful”.
Cuomo strongly denied the women’s claims, saying the investigation was tainted by bias against him and by politics.
On Tuesday, Cuomo referred emotionally to his own three daughters, saying, “I want them to know from the bottom of my heart: I have never intentionally disregarded a woman or treated a woman differently from what I wanted to treat her.”
“Your father made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is about,” said Cuomo.
But the governor’s attorney, Rita Glavin, in a lengthy statement prior to his resignation, accused the outside lawyers hired by James of investigating Cuomo, the biases that infected their work, and the preconceived conclusion that Cuomo acted inappropriately when providing evidence who have rallied in support of this view disregarding other evidence that undermines them.
“I think women should be believed and treated fairly,” said Glavin. “I also believe that men should be believed and treated fairly. That should be given to all people.”
“The governor deserves to be treated fairly. And that didn’t happen here.”
Cuomo is the youngest high-ranking New York Democrat politician to be hit by a sex scandal.
In 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelations that paid for sex with a prostitute.
Former MP Anthony Weiner went to federal prison for more than a year in late 2017 after pleading guilty to sexing an underage girl. Eric Schneiderman resigned as attorney general in 2018 after four women accused him of physical abuse. Schneiderman had succeeded Cuomo as attorney general.
Cuomo’s resignation came five months after charges of molestation against him exploded in public.
His fall marks a staggering turnaround in his political fortune in 2020, when his handling of the Covid pandemic was widely acclaimed and he was awarded a lucrative book deal to write about his management.
Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks on August 10, 2021.
Source: New York State
The governor was also mentioned as a possible candidate for Biden or as a potential attorney general in the new administration.
Cuomo had resisted calls for resignation for months, which began after several former employees – Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett and Karen Hinton – accused him of inappropriate behavior towards them.
Other women described similar behavior on the part of Cuomo.
One of them, an aide, told supervisors that Cuomo aggressively groped her at the governor’s mansion last year after calling her on the pretext of dealing with a cell phone problem.
The unidentified woman’s account was forwarded to the Albany Police Department, which reached out to her representative.
From the dynasty to the end
Cuomo is a son of the late three-term governor Mario Cuomo.
He was previously the New York attorney general and secretary for housing and urban development in the Clinton administration.
Cuomo has three daughters with his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, whose own father, Robert Kennedy, served as US attorney general under his brother President John Kennedy and was assassinated in 1968 when he ran for president.
Cuomo became a national star last year.
The governor had received praise for his no-nonsense press conferences explaining the grim toll of Covid-19, his frequent admonitions to take precautions against contagion, and his empathic response to the victims of the pandemic.
Cuomo’s hilarious interviews about Covid with his own brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, won some rave reviews, fed late-night comedians, and fueled criticism from media ethics.
The governor’s press conferences have often been compared to those of then-President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for questioning the conduct of his own medical advisors and repeatedly downplaying the threat of the virus. The governor of New York won an Emmy for his television appearances late last year.
But Cuomo’s Covid management – and his aggressive governance style as a whole – also bore the seeds of his political destruction.
Contrary to his own party
Although he easily won re-election twice, Cuomo long alienated many Democrats and progressives in the state.
Democratic state lawmakers were also angry about Cuomo’s past tacit alliance with a small clique of Democratic senators who for years effectively turned control of the state’s Senate over to the Republicans, despite the fact that the Democrats held the majority of the seats.
Throughout his political career, Cuomo has had a micromanaging, non-captive way of dealing with adversaries and would-be allies who are slow to bow to his will.
That style was fully reflected in Cuomo’s dealings with Queens Rep. Ron Kim, a Democrat, who said in April the governor loudly beat him on a phone call at home and threatened to reprimand him for criticizing Kim’s failure to disclose death dates related to Covid.
Kim and other lawmakers were upset after hearing from senior governor’s adviser Melissa DeRosa that his government had withheld data on nursing home residents’ deaths from Covid. DeRosa then claimed that the data was being kept secret to avoid being “used against us” by federal prosecutors under the command of Trump’s Attorney General William Barr.
Even when Cuomo adamantly denied Kim’s report of the phone call, he accused Kim of “unethical” behavior in assisting nail salon owners while lawmakers debated adopting industry reforms six years ago.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who himself has been a whipping boy for the governor for a long time, called the phone call “classic Andrew Cuomo”.
“A lot of people in New York state received these calls,” de Blasio said during an MSNBC interview.
“The bullying is nothing new. I think Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad, no officer, no person telling the truth should be treated that way. The threats, the belittling, the request that someone be correct change moment … I’ve heard this many, many times and I know a lot of other people in this state have heard that. “
The controversy over the phone call erupted just before former Cuomo adviser Boylan revived her previous claims that he sexually molested her.