New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will resign after a withering report from the state's attorney general alleged he'd sexually harassed multiple women, leading to calls from top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, that he step down.
"And I think that given the circumstances the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government, and therefore that is what I'll do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing, is doing the right thing for you," Cuomo said.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, will serve the rest of his term, and will be the state's first female governor.
"It is a matter of life and death. Government operations and wasting energy on distraction is the last thing government should be," Cuomo said. "I cannot be the cause. New York tough means New York loving. And I love New York and I love you. Everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love and I would never want to be unhelpful in any way."
Facing impeachment proceedings, which he admitted he would be unable to counter, Cuomo, 63, announced he'll leave office in 14 days while continuing to insist that he did nothing wrong.
Speaking to his three daughters, Cuomo said, "I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I never did and I never would intentionally disrespect a woman, treat any woman differently than I would want them treated and that is the God's honest truth."
"Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized, and he learned from it and that's what life is all about."
After he was first hit with sexual harassment allegations earlier this year, Cuomo ignored bipartisan demands that he resign, and predicted the investigation he authorized state Attorney General Letitia James to carry out would exonerate him. Instead, the report alleged that he'd harassed 11 women — nine of whom were state employees — and subjected some of them to unwelcome touching and groping. His office also retaliated against one of the women after she spoke out about how she was treated, the report alleged.
In the wake of the report, the state Assembly had begun to organize impeachment proceedings. Local law enforcement officials also announced they were investigating whether criminal charges were appropriate.
The attorney general was asked if Cuomo should step down after she released the report last week. "That decision is up to the governor himself. The report speaks for itself," she responded.
Biden, a longtime Cuomo ally, was more blunt when he was asked about the report. "I think he should resign," Biden said.
The resignation caps a remarkable fall from grace for the third-term governor, who was riding high in public opinion polls last year after his public briefings about the coronavirus pandemic in his hard-hit state were lauded.
That reputation took a major blow in January, when James's office issued a report that found that the state Health Department had underreported the Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. A top Cuomo aide was then caught on tape telling Democratic legislators that the administration took months to release the full data about nursing home residents in part because of worries that the information was "going to be used against us" by the Trump administration.
The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and the FBI began a preliminary investigation into how the Cuomo administration handled the data earlier this year.
Cuomo was then accused in mid-February of having threatened to "destroy" a Democratic lawmaker who alleged that the administration "covered up" the nursing home numbers. Cuomo denied there had been any cover-up.
That was followed by a string of sexual harassment allegations, including by some former aides. The first to speak out was Lindsey Boylan, who wrote an essay on the website Medium which described being subjected to "pervasive harassment" in her years of working for the governor.
Boylan said Cuomo made numerous inappropriate comments to her in front of other people, including once asking her to play "strip poker," and said he once kissed her on the lips when they were alone.
Cuomo's office called Boylan's claims "quite simply false," but they led to numerous other women stepping forward to say they'd been mistreated and to a flood of Democratic lawmakers calling for his resignation, including the vast majority of New York's congressional delegation.
Fighting for his political survival, Cuomo authorized James to investigate the harassment claims and predicted the probe would exonerate him — but it wound up substantiating all the claims against him in a blistering 165-page report.
In one case, he allegedly groped an executive assistant under her shirt, and in another, he fondled a state trooper, the report alleged. The governor "sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women," the report alleged.
Shortly after the report's release, Cuomo maintained "I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," and vowed to focus on his job.
Cuomo intended to run for a fourth term, a feat his three-term governor father, the late Mario Cuomo, was not able to achieve.
Source: NBC News