“The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw, and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false,” said soon-to-be former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo at an Aug. 10 press conference where the scandal-plagued leader announced his resignation.
Cuomo’s fall comes after months of holding out when it came to light earlier this year that his orders led to more than 15,000 nursing home deaths at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in 2020.
That episode came to a head when what began as a trickle of accounts from former staff members and professional associates ended with 11 women bringing down allegations of gross sexual misconduct by the governor.
At the time, Cuomo decided to weather the fallout from the scandal, while his Executive Chamber referred the matter to NY State Attorney General Letitia James’s office for a full investigation of the accusers’ claims.
The referral culminated in a lengthy report issued by James’s office on Aug. 3 that not only verified the veracity of the allegations of all 11 women, found Cuomo inappropriately touched three of the victims — including a New York State Trooper assigned to his personal guard unit — but found Cuomo and his Chamber had long since fostered a culture of intimidation, bullying, and retaliation that enabled his pattern of abuse.
Cuomo’s attorney: report ‘got the facts wrong’
At a press conference preceding Cuomo’s resignation, his attorney, Rita Glavin, said that the AG’s report “got the facts wrong” and “omitted favorable evidence that didn’t support the narrative.”
“The governor had no opportunity to respond, and journalists were saying things — that he had groped and fondled 11 women, and that wasn’t true, and that wasn’t in the report. The investigators acted as the prosecutors, judge, and jury of Gov. Cuomo. Nobody vetted the report,” she said.
After Glavin made similarly themed statements in Cuomo’s defense last week, AG spokesperson Fabien Levy said in a statement that the accusers’ claims were “corroborated by a mountain of evidence,” and that “any suggestion that attempts to undermine the credibility of these women or this investigation is unfortunate.”
“The independent investigators selected are widely respected professionals, recognized for their legal and investigatory ability. To attack this investigation and attempt to undermine and politicize this process takes away from the bravery displayed by these women.”
Levy also noted transcripts from the investigation would be provided to the New York State Assembly.
Despite his lawyer’s defense, Cuomo said he was resigning because “the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government,” apparently referring to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic. “It is a matter of life and death. Government operations and wasting energy on distraction is the last thing government should be.”
During his resignation, Cuomo, who was Attorney General himself before becoming governor in 2011, asserted that “the most serious allegations made against me had no credible factual basis in the report.”
‘In my mind I’ve never crossed the line’
“There is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment…I thought a hug and putting my arm around a staff member while taking a picture was friendly. But she found it to be too forward,” Cuomo said.
“I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. I do hug and kiss people casually. Women and men. I have done it all my life. It’s who I’ve been since I can remember.”
“In my mind I’ve never crossed the line with anyone. But, I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
“There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate,” he said.
Cuomo will be succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, making her the first female Governor in New York history. On Twitter, Hochul said, “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,” while affirming acceptance of her ascension to power.
The resignation takes effect in 14 days.