After New York Attorney General Tish James released the findings of an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s conduct — showing that he sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former staffers — a growing force of political players from both sides of the aisle is asking for the governor to resign.
Cuomo, in a statement that was broadcast but included no press in attendance, said Tuesday that he did nothing wrong, insisting the facts are much different than what has been portrayed.
The findings have again brought the governor national attention, but it's a stark contrast from the kind he received for his handling of the state’s response to the pandemic.
Rep. Joe Morelle, a Democrat who represents the 27th Congressional District, is among several elected leaders who have called on Cuomo to step down.
“The findings presented today as part of the Attorney General’s sexual misconduct investigation further underscore the need for the Governor to step down,” Morelle said in a statement. “It remains clear that he cannot continue to effectively govern and provide the leadership our state needs during these unprecedented times.”
County Executive Adam Bello, a Democrat, specifically called out the major conclusions of the investigation in his response.
“The Attorney General’s report confirms what we already knew from the compelling accounts of the many brave women who came forward,” Bello said. “Governor Cuomo used his position of power to sexually harass and abuse women, and to create a toxic workplace environment that diminished and devalued dedicated public servants. I continue to believe the Governor must resign.”
The State Assembly is already conducting an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo’s conduct while also looking into whether Cuomo illegally used staff to help him write and promote a memoir and if his family and friends got preferential access to coronavirus tests when they were hard to get earlier in the pandemic. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said early Tuesday that Cuomo’s conduct, as outlined in the report, would indicate someone who is not fit for office. He also said the report has been referred to the Assembly Impeachment Inquiry Committee. But just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Heastie sent out a statement stating that Cuomo has "lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office."
"Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible," Heastie said.
The multiple reasons for the impeachment inquiry, along with the AG’s report, has Assemblymember Harry Bronson, who represents the 138th District, convinced that Cuomo can no longer be governor.
“Not only do we have this report that was released today, but we also have the other allegations and scandals surrounding the governor,” Bronson said.
Assemblymember Sarah Clark, who represents the 136th District, said she was ready for Cuomo to step down after the allegations were made public earlier this year. Clark said it’s time for Cuomo to be impeached.
“If it took an investigation like this to get more members comfortable with impeachment, then I’m glad it happened,” Clark said. “I’m ready to move forward with impeachment.”
The revelation of Cuomo’s workplace conduct comes two years after he signed bills to protect against sexual harassment in the workplace. That fact is not lost on Assemblymember Jen Lunsford, a Democrat who represents the 135th District.
“The governor can’t hide behind cultural norms because he signed the legislation that we put in place to teach people that this wasn’t OK anymore,” Lunsford said, adding that Cuomo's conduct is grounds for impeachment.
Assemblymember Josh Jensen, a Republican who represents the 134th District, thinks Cuomo should step down, saying no one could lead the state under the cloud of this investigation.
“I think it would be very difficult to continue to do the work of the people when he’s lost the support of the people,” Jensen said.
Right now, the state legislature is not in session, but Jensen believes it should return to impeach Cuomo.
“I think there’s more than enough to proceed with the question, among the New York State Legislature, of should this man remain governor of New York state,” Jensen said.
The chair of the state’s GOP committee, Nick Langworthy, echoed Jensen’s sentiment.
“I called for Governor Cuomo’s impeachment on February 11th, and I renew that call today,” Langworthy said. “If he does not immediately resign, Speaker Carl Heastie must call for a special session to bring articles of impeachment to the floor for an up or down vote.”
While the possibility of Cuomo’s impeachment — or hopes of his resignation —are swirling around Albany after the report, Cuomo’s current lieutenant governor, and his previous deputy, have stopped short of calling for impeachment, while recognizing the magnitude of his actions.
"I am shocked and dismayed to learn the findings of the investigation led by Attorney General James, and I applaud the courage of the women who came forward to share their experiences,” said Bob Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and Cuomo’s lieutenant governor from 2011-2014. “Speaking out about toxic work environments and sexual harassment is difficult under any circumstances, but even more so when such behaviors are carried out by a person in a position of power. ‘Intent’ does not matter. At issue is the impact of actions.
“Everyone deserves a work environment free of harassment, retaliation, bullying, and fear. The responsibility of leaders is to establish a positive and safe work culture. It is unfortunate to see that this investigation concludes the opposite is true.”
If Cuomo is impeached or resigns, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would become governor, and be the first woman to lead the state. Because of that line of succession, Hochul only issued a short statement.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The Attorney General’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward,” Hochul said. “No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.”
But while the Assembly may determine Cuomo’s future, he is being pressured to walk away on his own, even from President Joe Biden. When Biden was asked during a news conference Tuesday if he was calling on Cuomo to resign, his answer was to the point.
“Yes,” Biden said.
This story includes reporting from Karen DeWitt, James Brown, and Noelle E.C. Evans.