New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Tuesday that he will resign in the wake of the state attorney general’s bombshell report on allegations of sexual harassment targeted at 11 women. Cuomo said his resignation will be effective in 14 days.
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore that’s what I’ll do,” Cuomo said during a televised address that was billed as a press briefing but which reporters were not allowed to attend.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will step in as Cuomo’s replacement. She will be the first woman to serve as New York’s governor.
Cuomo had been staring down the barrel of impeachment by the New York state Assembly over the sexual harassment scandal. He was also reeling from revelations that his administration had undercounted nursing home COVID-19 deaths last year, that he used government resources to write his book, and that he gave friends and family VIP access to COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report detailed the allegations of 11 women, most of whom were government employees, who complained that Cuomo had engaged in conduct ranging from lewd comments to physical advances to groping. The investigation also found that the governor and his administration had worked to retaliate against one of the accusers.
After James released the report last week, Cuomo’s legal team held a press briefing in which Rita Glavin, one of his attorneys, attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of some of the accusers and attack the investigation as a whole, which the lawyer claimed “was conducted in a manner to support a predetermined narrative.”
Glavin repeated her complaints in a press briefing on Tuesday that was held right before Cuomo’s address, saying that the investigators had “acted as the prosecutors, the judge and the jury of Gov. Cuomo.”
On Monday, the state Assembly announced plans to hold public and private hearings this month in the impeachment probe. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) signaled that the impeachment proceedings would almost certainly spell doom for Cuomo, telling reporters that “members have no confidence in the ability of the governor to remain in office.”
The sexual harassment report prompted a massive wave of calls for Cuomo to resign, including from President Joe Biden.
But the fallout threatens to get worse for Cuomo than an implosion of his political career: While James did not have the authority to make criminal referrals in her probe, Albany County District Attorney General David Soares announced that his office was investigating the governor. Additionally, one of the victims who came forward has filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo, alleging that he had groped her several times.
Cecilia Walsh, a spokesperson for the district attorney, told CNN on Tuesday that Cuomo’s resignation would not impact Soares’ probe.
Cuomo’s resignation follows a string of abrupt departures of previous New York governors entangled in scandal: His two immediate predecessors, David Paterson and Eliot Spitzer (D), ditched a reelection campaign and resigned from office, respectively.
Spitzer was brought down in 2008 by revelations he had patronized a prostitution ring. Then Paterson, who as lieutenant governor took over after Spitzer resigned, cancelled his campaign for a full gubernatorial term in 2010 after it came out that his administration had meddled in a domestic abuse case involving one of his aides.
Before the portion of the speech announcing his resignation, Cuomo spent much of the address defending himself, claiming he “didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn” when interacting with women.
Cuomo also offered some bizarre “context” for a state trooper’s allegation that he pushed his hand on her right hip and touched her stomach, which the governor claimed he did not remember doing.
Cuomo stated that it was customary for him to touch state troopers of any gender who stand near him because “I’m not comfortable just walking past and ignoring them.”
“When I walk past them, I often will give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back. It’s my way of saying ‘I see you. I appreciate you, and I thank you,’” the governor said.
The governor also pumped himself up as a “fighter” for New Yorkers while laying thick a note of self-victimization.
“I’m a New Yorker born and bred, I’m a fighter and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe this is politically motivated, I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful and I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society,” Cuomo said. “But when I took my oath as governor, then it changed. I became a fighter, but I became a fighter for you, and it is your best interest I serve.”