After last week’s damning report of sexual harassment allegations from the state Attorney General’s office and mounting pressure from lawmakers and allies, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he is resigning, effective in 14 days.
“New York Tough means New York Loving, and I love New York, and I love you,” Cuomo said during his stunning announcement. “I would never want to be unhelpful in any way. The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore that’s what I’ll do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing, is doing the right thing for you,” he added.
When he steps down, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take over, becoming New York’s first female governor. Hochul, who had called the report’s finding “repulsive,” said in a statement, “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor.”
I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers.
As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor.
— Kathy Hochul (@LtGovHochulNY) August 10, 2021
Before announcing his resignation, Cuomo doubled down on his defense against the report released last week by State Attorney General Letitia James detailing sexual harassment allegations from 11 women. He claimed the report had “serious issues and flaws…with no credible factual basis,” and that the allegations stemmed from women who were “offended” by his out-of-date behavior rather than criminal behavior. He claimed there were “political agendas and motivations” at play.
“There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender-based actions on generational and cultural behavioral differences on setting higher standards, and finding reasonable resolutions,” he said. “But the political environment is too hot, and it is too reactionary for that now. And it is unfortunate.”
His personal attorney, Rita Glavin, spoke before him, also challenging the credibility of the report.
During his speech he also addressed “Trooper #1” in the AG’s report, a state trooper he moved to his personal security detail who accused him of touching her on a number of occasions. The report also said that Cuomo sought to hire her even though she didn’t have the required three years of experience, which then resulted in the rules being changed so she could join his detail. On Tuesday the governor defended the transfer as a diversity action and claimed he did not intentionally touch her on multiple occasions.
“It was a mistake, plain and simple. I have no other words to explain it,” Cuomo said. “I want to personally apologize to her and her family. I have the greatest respect for her and for the New York State Police.”
The governor’s decision comes after the New York Assembly’s Judiciary Committee outlined its steps to discuss whether they would draft articles of impeachment against Cuomo. The committee chair, Assembly Member Charles Lavine, said that the committee would be meeting on August 16th and 23rd before holding public hearings with experts on sexual harassment and impeachment. Lavine and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had promised that they would move expeditiously and have a decision about impeachment within “weeks, not months.”
“This has been a tragic chapter in our state’s history. Governor Cuomo’s resignation is the right decision,” Heastie said in a statement on Tuesday. “The brave women who stepped forward were heard. Everyone deserves to work in a harassment free environment. I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Hochul and I look forward to working with her.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins, who had been calling on the governor to resign for months, said, “Today is a somber day for the state of New York, but one that demonstrates our ability to build a more accountable system of government. Governor Cuomo’s resignations opens the door to a restorative future. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude tot he courageous women who came forward and helped pave the way for safer and more inclusive work spaces.”
Cuomo is the second consecutive governor elected by New York voters to resign; Governor Eliot Spitzer stepped down in 2008 after he revealed that he patronized a prostitution ring. Governor David Paterson, Spitzer’s lieutenant governor, served out the rest of Spitzer’s term, but only briefly ran for reelection before dropping out of the race over a scandal of his own.
Cuomo’s resignation is a surprising end to a decades-long career in public service that began with a job managing a campaign for his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, whom he idolized. Cuomo won the first of his three terms as governor in 2010, and soared to international fame last year with his daily COVID-19 press briefings, which got him an Emmy.
State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had been calling for his resignation since late February after the federal government opened an investigation into his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths, and two former aides accused the governor of sexually harassing them. Then more women came forward, most recently a current staffer who said Cuomo groped her under her shirt in the executive mansion late last year and that there had been other inappropriate encounters.
The independent report from the AG’s office last week included previously reported and new accusations of Cuomo’s sexual misconduct. It led to many calls for his resignation, including from longtime friend President Joe Biden. Mayor Bill de Blasio had also called for his resignation; he said on Tuesday, “Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”
For months, Cuomo has denied that he did anything wrong.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately,” Cuomo said on March 3rd. “I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain.” During a call with reporters on March 12th he said people were “bowing to cancel culture,” and suggested that James complete her independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims.
However, after the report’s release, Cuomo refuted the claims, as did his private attorneys who repeatedly sought to attack the credibility of the report and the women who stepped forward. He has repeated his defense that the women were mistaking his Italian-American tendency to show physical affection as harassment.
“I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. It’s who I’ve been since I can remember, in my mind,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
However, the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee was not only investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct: They were also looking into the Cuomo administration’s coverup of nursing home deaths; how the governor allegedly obtained rapid COVID tests for friends and associates during the early days of the pandemic; and whether he used state resources to work on his memoir—he got a multimillion-dollar book deal—about leading the state during the pandemic.
Cuomo also took a moment for a victory lap during his resignation speech, noting his administration had enacted a slate of liberal policies that made New York a frequent target of the Trump administration.
“We made New York State the progressive capital of the nation. No other state government accomplished more to help people,” Cuomo said, naming marriage equality, stricter gun control laws and increasing the minimum wage among his legacy.
He invoked the state’s COVID-19 response as evidence of New York’s fortitude: “You refused to give up, and you fought back, and you won, going from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest,” Cuomo said. “No one thought we could do it. But you did it. You led the nation, and you showed the way forward.”
This story is developing, check back for more.