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September 17, 2021

News West

West Coast News Network

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns amid sexual harassment claims

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he is resigning from office following a blistering report by the New York attorney general that concluded he had sexually harassed multiple women.

The investigation released Aug. 3 left Cuomo increasingly isolated even from his own party, as top Democrats including President Biden called for him to step aside. Cuomo said his resignation would become effective in 14 days.

“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in a video announcement. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”

He will be succeeded by Kathy Hochul, the Democratic lieutenant governor who will become New York’s first female governor.

Cuomo’s downfall was a remarkable reversal of fortune for a man who is part of a political dynasty and who a year ago was considered a likely future White House contender.

But he had become a political pariah by the time he declared that he would not finish his third term as New York governor. Scores of Democratic elected officials had been pressuring him to vacate the office even before New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James began an investigation that found credible the allegations of 11 women accusing Cuomo of sexual misconduct.

The accusers’ reports of unwanted advances from the governor, including groping, kissing and lewd comments, were detailed in the 165-page findings of the investigation. At least two accounts had not previously been disclosed publicly. One of the women was a state trooper Cuomo had assigned to his detail.

The report also found that Cuomo had retaliated against another of his accusers. It concluded that Cuomo and his staff had violated multiple state and federal laws and created a toxic and hostile workplace.

Cuomo forcefully denied the report’s conclusions and issued an 85-page rebuttal that addressed each claim of sexual misconduct.

“I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in a video released soon after James’ findings became public. “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo continued to insist his tactile behavior did not have any abusive intent but struck a more contrite tone.

“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,” he said.

His suggestion that the investigation was tainted by political bias did little to muffle the drumbeat of Democrats who urged Cuomo to step down. That included Biden, the leader of Cuomo’s party, who, after hearing of the findings, called on his longtime friend to resign.

Cuomo had already lost the support of many New York Democrats, including Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who had urged the governor to step aside in the spring after several women went public with accusations. The release of the investigative report compounded Cuomo’s woes in Albany, where lawmakers had already initiated an impeachment investigation, after state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the governor had “lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and … can no longer remain in office.”

It’s a stunning collapse for Cuomo, the son of the late Mario Cuomo, who served three terms as governor of New York.

A year ago, the younger Cuomo was well into his own third term when the pandemic hit. He filled the void created by the lack of leadership from the Trump White House. New York was hard hit by COVID-19, but Cuomo’s daily briefings that mixed pandemic data, pleas to New Yorkers to take precautions and snapshots of his personal life became must-see-TV for viewers across the country. His popularity drove some Democrats to hope Biden would pick Cuomo as his running mate.

It also built on what had been a productive tenure in the governor’s office, during which Cuomo brought fiscal discipline to the state, helped push through the legalization of gay marriage and imposed a fracking ban.

But in January, James found that the state had undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes by thousands. Cuomo ultimately released the data, saying he was trying to avoid a biased inquiry by the Trump administration. But his critics also pointed to his decision last spring to force nursing homes to accept people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Cuomo is also facing allegations that he, his family and powerful backers received special access to coronavirus testing.

The nursing home controversy touched off Cuomo’s rapid descent, which initially echoed a pattern familiar to other governors who rose to prominence and soaring popularity amid a crisis. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, had seemed politically invincible after steering his state through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. But voters turned on the Republican governor amid a bruising state government shutdown later in 2017, when Christie was photographed relaxing with his family on a beach amid his orders that all other state beaches remain closed to the public.

And the sky-high approval ratings California Gov. Gavin Newsom enjoyed in the early days of the pandemic were supplanted with widespread public disappointment in the Democrat’s job performance as the state botched the distribution of unemployment checks and the vaccine rollout. Now, he faces the threat of recall from office.

But Cuomo’s problems would quickly dwarf those of the other governors, as accusations surfaced about outrageous and potentially criminal conduct.

Along with the misconduct allegations came reports of a toxic work environment in Cuomo’s office, in which colleagues were pitted against each other, cursing and yelling were the norm, and young, thin, blond women who wore tight dresses and high heels were routinely hired.

Even before the recent salacious allegations, Cuomo’s tenure was far from blemish-free. He was known as a bully who ruled through intimidation. And he‘d survived controversies — notably, ethics investigations that resulted in allies going to prison.

But in the #MeToo era and with few allies willing to stay by his side after years of his heavy-handed rule, Cuomo’s prior strategies were no longer enough to save him.

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