President Joe Biden was the latest Democrat to call for the resignation of embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The statement came several hours after the release of a scathing report issued by the New York Attorney General’s Office, which concluded Cuomo violated state and federal law through sex-based harassment and fostered a toxic culture that stymied women’s ability to come forward.
“I think he should resign,” Biden said at an unrelated press conference at the White House Tuesday afternoon.
As Biden spoke, Democratic Assembly members were in a heated emergency conference discussing whether to move towards an impeachment vote, according to several legislative sources. Many members of the caucus were prepared to vote immediately to impeach Cuomo, while a small handful of reluctant members wanted the Judiciary Committee, which is already investigating the governor, to handle the matter.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who had previously stopped short of calling for Cuomo’s resignation, said in an initial statement Monday afternoon that members were reviewing the report. By 5:15 p.m., after Biden’s remarks, Assembly Heastie struck a more declarative tone.
“It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office,” he said. “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,” though he declined to give a specific timeline.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has vehemently denied the report’s findings.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made any inappropriate sexual advances,” said Cuomo in a pre-taped response Monday afternoon. He pointed to a rebuttal report prepared by his personal attorney Rita Glavin that responds to each of the 11 women whose allegations the A.G. corroborated during a five-month probe.
At the behest of Attorney General Tish James, outside attorneys Joon Kim and Anne Clark corroborated accounts of 11 women who’d been sexually harassed by Cuomo. During an 11-hour interview with Cuomo last month they’d found his denials unbelievable.
“The Governor’s blanket denials and lack of recollection as to specific incidents stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the Governor’s conduct,” the report said.
Cuomo has shifted from apologizing for making women who worked for him uncomfortable, to denying any misconduct took place, to accusing investigators of political bias.
In his remarks on Tuesday, he said the complaint from former staffer Charlotte Bennett troubled him the most. He said she identified herself as a sexual assault survivor to him. “I could see how it affected her. I could see her pain,” Cuomo said. He then revealed that an unnamed member of his own family had experienced sexual assault in high school and suggested he was trying to apply what he learned through the counseling they experienced as a family.
“I was trying to make sure she was working the way through it the best she could,” Cuomo said of Bennett. “I was wrong,” he added. Then he issued an apology to Bennett for bringing “my personal experience into the workplace.”
Soon after the report’s release Tuesday morning, Bennett reiterated her demand for Cuomo to resign.
Her attorney Debra Katz seconded her client’s request.
“The findings released today demonstrate what Charlotte Bennett stated publicly, at great personal cost, more than six months ago: Governor Cuomo sexually harassed her during her employment as his executive assistant and his enablers protected him and covered it up,” she said.
In his Tuesday statement, Cuomo once again refuted the account from an executive assistant who said Cuomo groped her at his home in Albany. “This just did not happen,” he said, warning that he was prepared to go to court to fight that allegation.
Cuomo also blasted the New York Times report about the incident with Anna Ruch, which included a photo showing him touching her at a wedding. The governor, as he has in the past, claimed the gesture was one he learned from his Italian family as a sign of warmth and affection.
“I do kiss people on the forehead, I do kiss people on the cheek…I do occasionally slip and call people, sweetheart,” he said, as the video showed numerous photos of the governor touching and kissing people at public events. “I try to put people at ease. I try to make them smile. I try to connect with them.”
Incredible moment as Cuomo displays face-touching slideshow: “I do it with everyone. Black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.” pic.twitter.com/CIwbAJj9R3
— Jessy Han (@hjessy_) August 3, 2021
Reached shortly after Cuomo addressed the report, Ana Liss, one of the 11 women who spoke to investigators for hours about her experience working as an assistant in Cuomo’s office between 2013 and 2015, told Gothamist/WNYC that she felt vindicated after the report’s release.
“I feel grateful that other women were courageous and spoke up,” she said. “Our stories amplified each other’s. We all knew that he would double down. But how embarrassing for him as a father of three young women, as a man who has gone out publicly and advocated for women’s rights.”
She said she couldn’t bring herself to watch Cuomo’s recorded remarks.
“It’s not up to him to decide if there was any damage done,” she added.
Comment from Albany County District Attorney David Soares Regarding NYS Attorney General Final Report on Governor Cuomo ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/aSVBNzhebf
— Albany County District Attorney’s Office (@AlbanyCountyDA) August 3, 2021
Eric Adams, who appeared publicly with Cuomo at a friendly press conference just two weeks ago, added his voice to the calls for Cuomo to step down. “It is now the duty of the New York State Assembly to take swift and appropriate action and move forward with impeachment if the Governor will not resign,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who would take over for Cuomo if he faces impeachment, called Cuomo’s behavior as detailed in the AG report, “repulsive and unlawful.”
Despite Cuomo’s denial, state lawmakers doubled down on their calls for Cuomo to resign. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who initially called for him to leave his post in March, said the AG’s findings highlight the “unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration.”
“As I said, when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state. Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement, where she also thanked James and her investigators along with the women who came forward.
Her comments were echoed by many of the members of the Democratic majority within her chamber.
“The report by Attorney General James correctly uplifts the courageous voices of the women who suffered from the Governor’s behavior,” said Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris. “The Attorney General’s report clearly and concisely documents that Governor Cuomo engaged in disturbing and unacceptable behavior. Andrew Cuomo lacks the integrity required to be the leader of our state and can no longer serve as New York’s Governor. He must heed the calls of so many New York leaders and resign.”
State Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, reiterating her call for Cuomo’s resignation said bluntly, “11 women is 11 too many.”
“President Biden needs to call for his resignation,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, “for the sake of our party.” Biden is expected to speak at 4 p.m. and said he would take questions at that time.
While many members of the state’s congressional delegation had already called for Cuomo to resign back in March, three members representing portions of Queens added their voices to those calling for Cuomo to immediately step down. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Tom Suozzi, and Greg Meeks each offered more measured comments in the spring where they said the governor faced serious allegations but was entitled to due process. They issued a joint statement on Tuesday that did not equivocate.
The office of Attorney General Tish James conducted a complete, thorough, and professional investigation of the disturbing allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo. The investigation has found that the Governor engaged in abusive behavior toward women, including subordinates, created a hostile work environment and violated state and federal law. We commend the brave women who came forward and spoke truth to power. The time has come for Governor Andrew Cuomo to do the right thing for the people of New York State and resign.
Other members who had previously called for Cuomo’s resignation also pointed to a statement the governor made in 2013 regarding former Assemblymember Vito Lopez, when he faced charges of sexual harassment.
“We note with interest Governor Cuomo’s own May 17th, 2013 statement calling on Assembly Member Vito Lopez to ‘resign, effective immediately’ when the Assembly investigation announced its findings: ‘there should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment and we must now send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.’ We agree,” said the statement from Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Brian Higgins , Nydia Velazquez, Ritchie Torres, Yvette Clarke, Kathleen Rice, Grace Meng, Adriano Espaillat, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also issued a joint statement once again calling for Cuomo’s resignation. “The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office,” they said.
This is a developing story and has been updated to reflect new comments from President Joe Biden and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.