Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a fourth term in office is still on the table despite a growing number of women who’ve accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, saying the claims haven’t been verified by an independent investigator.
“Today is not a day for politics. I’m focusing on my job,” Cuomo said. “You know allegations. You don’t know facts.”
The Cuomo administration is also under investigation for its handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but calls for his resignation began to escalate in recent weeks after allegations emerged that he’d sexually harassed individuals while in office.
Those claims have been referred to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who announced a pair of attorneys from the private sector this week who will lead an independent investigation into the allegations.
Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching anyone while he’s been in office, and said Tuesday that he was never made aware of a situation in which he made anyone uncomfortable.
"I never touched anyone inappropriately," Cuomo said. "No one ever told me at the time that I made them feel uncomfortable."
Six women have now accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment. Four of those women reportedly worked for Cuomo while he was governor, while another worked with him in the Clinton administration.
The latest accuser claimed that Cuomo inappropriately touched her while she was at the executive mansion, the governor’s residence in Albany. That story was reported Tuesday by the Albany Times Union.
The woman, who wasn’t named by the Times Union, is still employed in the Cuomo administration, according to the report. Cuomo told reporters Tuesday that he hadn’t seen the story.
Cuomo, who’s up for reelection to a fourth term next year, has faced increasing pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike in recent weeks to leave office amid the allegations, along with the federal probe into the administration’s handling of nursing homes.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, became the highest-ranking elected woman in New York state government to call for Cuomo’s resignation over the weekend, saying he could no longer effectively do the job.
“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign."
Republicans in the state Legislature have also called for Cuomo’s resignation, and suggested that lawmakers begin impeachment proceedings if he’s not willing to step down.
But a majority of Democrats in the state Legislature either haven’t taken a public position on whether Cuomo should resign, or have said they want to wait for the results of the attorney general’s investigation before making any moves.
Nearly two dozen female Democratic lawmakers from the Assembly, including Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, wrote in a statement Monday that the investigation should be allowed to move forward without interference.
“We request that she be allowed the appropriate time to complete her investigation rather than undermine her role and responsibility as the chief law enforcement officer of the state of New York,” the lawmakers said.
The timeline of that investigation is unclear, but Cuomo has indicated that he doesn’t intend to step down until it’s completed.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, are looking into the Cuomo administration’s handling of data related to COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes, but information on that investigation has largely been kept out of the public eye.
Considering both controversies, speculation among Democrats about next year’s race for governor has begun to swirl, with some forming plans behind the scenes to either challenge Cuomo in a primary election, or replace him on the ticket altogether.
Cuomo has survived primaries in his last two elections by healthy margins, and recent polling has placed his job performance rating from New Yorkers above 50%.
Dan Clark is host/producer of New York Now.