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Senate leader says Cuomo must resign; governor says ‘no way’

Governor Cuomo's office

New York State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the governor should consider voluntarily stepping down after two new allegations of inappropriate behavior from more women over the weekend.

But Cuomo said he has no plans to voluntarily leave office and has too much important work to do to let the accusations “distract” him.

Stewart-Cousins said “every day there is another account” of “allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment” and questions over the governor’s handling of nursing home death data during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the growing distractions are impeding the business of government.

“For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign,” she said.

Heastie stopped short of calling for Cuomo’s resignation, but said in a statement that it’s time “for the governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”

A defiant Cuomo, in a conference call with reporters just before the leaders weighed in, called the charges against him, including two new allegations of inappropriate behavior, “irrelevant” until state Attorney General Tish James completes an investigation.

“No, there is no way I resign,” said Cuomo, who added he deserves “due process” while the attorney general’s probe continues. “I’m not going to be distracted by this, either. We have to get a budget done in three weeks. We have a lot of work to do.”

Cuomo’s remarks are in contrast to a contrite apology he issued on March 3, when he said he was sorry if his behaviors unintentionally caused any misunderstanding or harm to his accusers.

The governor attacked as a liar one of the women, former aide Karen Hinton. She claims in the Washington Postthat Cuomo inappropriately hugged her after calling her to a private meeting in his hotel room.

“What she said is not true,” said Cuomo. “She has been a longtime political adversary of mine, highly critical for many, many years, and has made many, many accusations.”

Hinton also worked as a press secretary to Cuomo adversary New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. She wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Daily News in late February, taking both men to task for what she said was their bad behavior toward women.

Former aide Ana Liss told the Wall Street Journal that Cuomo inappropriately touched her at a reception and kissed her hand while at the office. Liss said she came to see it as patronizing behavior, and told the paper that she believes she was viewed as “just a skirt” by the governor and other top officials in his office.

Cuomo did not deny Liss’ accusations, but he said it is customary for him to kiss and hug people at public events, and that he often engages in “friendly banter” with employees about their dating habits.

Cuomo also addressed the growing number of female politicians, including state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Rep. Kathleen Rice, who have also called on him to resign. He said they are just playing politics.

"I have a news flash for you, there is politics in politics," Cuomo said with a laugh. 

Cuomo said he was elected by the people of the state of New York, and politicians who are his critics don’t get to “override elections.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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