Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will resign his office in two weeks following allegations of sexual misconduct, saying his instincts to fight an impeachment effort by state lawmakers are not in the best interest of the public.
His remarks followed a 30-minute media briefing from his attorney disputing the claims of his accusers, questioning the veracity of an Attorney General’s investigation into those allegations and accusing the media of failing to pursue his side of the story.
When it was Mr. Cuomo’s turn to speak, he began by saying that when there is bias in the justice system it should “concern everyone,” before quickly pivoting to an apology to his accusers and eventually his intention to “step aside” from his role as governor. The 63-year-old Democrat blamed his actions with 11 women who accused him of a wide range of indiscretions, including groping and inappropriate touching, on “generational and cultural shifts” he believes prevented him from understanding when he “crossed a line” he said had recently been “redrawn.” While he said his natural instinct is to “fight through this controversy,” he said the time and money the state would need to spend to fight any impeachment efforts would be better spent battling COVID-19 and gun violence while rebuilding New York City.
“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Mr. Cuomo said. “And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”
The announcement comes exactly one week after a bombshell 165-page report from Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat, concluded Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and the Executive Chamber fostered a toxic workplace that was “rife with fear and intimidation.” In the days that followed, Mr. Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa tendered her resignation and leadership in the Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, began to draft articles of impeachment. The Albany County Sheriff also said it was investigating a groping incident at the Governor’s Mansion that could lead to a misdemeanor criminal charge if substantiated.
On Tuesday, immediately preceding Mr. Cuomo’s announcement from his office in Manhattan, his personal attorney pushed back against the Attorney General and the Assembly saying the governor was a victim of bias. Attorney Rita Glavin said there was also no effort to collect evidence, including visitors logs and emails, that show the former staffer who accused Mr. Cuomo of groping her was not present at the mansion on the day she said he inappropriately touched her.
“From Day One this was about building a case against Governor Cuomo,” Ms. Glavin said.
She said the Attorney General’s investigators acted as the “prosecutors, judge and jury of Governor Cuomo.”
“He’s been convicted in the media and the Assembly,” Ms. Glavin said in her presentation, which included showing photographs allegedly used agains the governor in the AG’s report that she said prove he did not commit impeachable offenses.
Ms. Glavin said the attorney general did not give Mr. Cuomo the opportunity to respond to the allegations and her report included transcripts of just 41 of 179 witnesses interviewed during the investigation.
“What did the other 138 witnesses say?” Ms. Glavin asked, saying anything positive about Mr. Cuomo was omitted from the AG’s findings.
In a statement Tuesday, Ms. James, who some believe could run for governor next year, said “today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice.”
Mr. Cuomo’s downfall came swiftly in 2021, just a year removed from his being applauded nationally for his leadership in fighting COVID-19. His daily media briefings, broadcast on social media, became appointment viewing for supporters near and far, who called his candor in a time of crisis “refreshing.”
Of course, those daily briefings were also viewed by skeptics, who routinely criticized the governor’s early decision to send COVID-19 patients to nursing homes and a multi-million dollar publishing deal for a book on leadership at a time when the pandemic still raged across his state.
The governor’s critics received validation in the form of reports that showed his administration obscured the number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic and he faced increased political pressure from both sides of the aisle as accusers began to come forward in March with stories of perceived inappropriate sexual behavior and intimidation tactics from within his office.
On Tuesday, Ms. Glavin discussed at length the claims made by each one of the 11 accusers, which ranged from a former staffer who said he groped her inside the governor’s mansion late last year to a healthcare professional who said she was offended by a comment he made about her appearance during a televised media briefing earlier in 2020. In each instance the governor’s attorney disputed the accusations made by the women.
“I think that women should be believed and they should be treated fairly,” Ms. Glavin said. “I also believe that men should be believed and treated fairly. All people should have that.”
Local State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) called Mr. Cuomo’s resignation “welcome news.”
“It will save the state time and money in removing him from office through impeachment,” Mr. Palumbo said. “Now, state government must refocus its energies on defeating the COVID Delta variant, working to rebuild New York’s struggling economy and infrastructure and combating the rise in violent crime.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who announced his intent to run for governor amidst the controversies earlier this year, accused Mr. Cuomo of resigning to “skirt repercussions” of his actions.
“He knows he would be impeached. He knows he would be voted out of office,” Mr. Zeldin said. “Andrew Cuomo broke the law and criminal investigations must follow.”
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who Mr. Cuomo called “smart and competent,” will serve as the 57th governor of New York State. Mr. Cuomo is the second consecutive elected governor to resign in controversy, following fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer. Only two other New York governors have resigned in the past century.
Ms. Hochul, an Eerie County Democrat, has served as Lieutenant Governor since 2015. The 62-year-old Buffalo native previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013. Upon her swearing in to a term that expires at the end of next year, Ms. Hochul would be the first female governor of New York.
Mr. Cuomo, a former attorney general, has served as governor since Jan. 2011. His last day in office is expected to be Aug. 24.
“Thank you for allowing me to serve you,” the governor said in concluding his remarks Tuesday. “It has been the honor of my lifetime.”