New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo faced demands to resign Tuesday after an investigation found that he sexually harassed 11 women, created a “climate of fear” in a “toxic” workplace, and violated federal and state civil laws.
An explosive 165 page report Published by State Attorney General Letitia James, it delivered a mountain of damning and often graphic evidence that threatened to topple Cuomo, a leading Democratic Party figure who served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet.
Among the accusations was that Cuomo, 63, reached under the blouse of an executive assistant and grabbed her chest, and ran his finger down the back of a state trooper assigned to protect him.
But the governor released a challenging video direction on Tuesday, insisting “that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances” and making it clear that he still has no intention of resigning.
Cuomo, the son of three-term New York Governor Mario Cuomo, became a political star through daily televised briefings during the early months of the pandemic, but was clouded by accusations that he misreported the number of deaths in nursing homes.
He faced calls to resign when two former assistants accused him of sexually harassing them in the workplace and several more women came forward with misconduct allegations, prompting James’ five-month investigation.
In announcing his findings at a press conference Tuesday, the attorney general said: “Specifically, the investigation found that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwanted and non-consensual touching and by making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women. “
James added: “This investigation has revealed conduct that corrodes the very structure and character of our state government and sheds light on the injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government. But none of this, none of this would have been clarified if it weren’t for the heroic women who showed up. “
James Researchers, Joon Kim and Anne Clark, spoke with 179 people, including whistleblowers and current and former members of the New York executive chamber, and reviewed more than 74,000 documents, emails, texts and images.
His work resulted in a “clear and deeply disturbing image” of what James called a “toxic workplace” and a “climate of fear” in which Cuomo sexually harassed various women, many of them young, “engaging in fondling, kissing, hugging and making inappropriate comments ”.
The women found this behavior “deeply humiliating, uncomfortable, offensive or inappropriate,” James said.
Some incidents “involved intentional touching and grabbing of private parts, including the butt and chest,” the report says. An executive assistant alleged that Cuomo “reached under her shirt and grabbed her breast.”
In another incident, Cuomo inappropriately touched a female state trooper whom he arranged to be put into his security detail, “running his finger down her back, from her upper neck to the middle of her back, saying ‘ hey, you, ‘while she was standing in front of him in an elevator, ”the report said.
The report describes an atmosphere “fraught with fear and intimidation” in the governor’s offices at the state capitol, Albany.
Kim told the press conference: “It was a culture where you couldn’t say ‘no’ to the governor and if you upset him or his senior staff, they would dismiss it, put it aside or worse.”Researchers Yoon Kim and Anne Clark at a press conference on Tuesday. Photographer: Justin Lane / EPA
Cuomo and his team retaliated against at least one former employee for complaining about his conduct, James added.
He stopped short of asking him to face criminal prosecution, but said that prosecutors can make their own decision on whether to pursue civil lawsuits. The report found that he violated civil laws against workplace harassment.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares Released a declaration Via Twitter he noted: “We will formally request investigative materials obtained by the attorney general’s office, and we welcome any victim to contact our office.”
Albany County District Attorney David Soares Commentary on New York State Attorney General’s Final Report on Governor Cuomo ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/aSVBNzhebf
– Albany County District Attorney’s Office (@AlbanyCountyDA) August 3, 2021
When asked if Cuomo should resign, the attorney general responded: “That decision will be up to the governor of New York State. The report speaks for itself. “
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “I don’t know if anyone could have seen this morning and not found the accusations abhorrent. I know I certainly did. “
Meanwhile, several New York Democrats, including US state senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Mondaire Jones, called on Cuomo to resign. Gillibrand called the report “deeply, deeply disturbing.”
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City and a longtime fellow Democrat but political enemy of the Governor, saying: “I’m going to state the obvious: the summary you just gave represents behavior that is unacceptable.
“Unacceptable in anyone, much less in a public servant. I am very clear about the fact that what we have seen is disqualifying. “
Republicans based on the findings. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, said: “No one is above the law and justice must be served today. Governor Cuomo must resign and be arrested immediately. President Joe Biden must immediately call for Cuomo’s resignation. “
Last winter, many of the top Democrats elected in New York called for Cuomo’s resignation. Many said that their position was no longer sustainable in the era of the #MeToo movement.
Asked in a TV interview in March whether Cuomo should resign if an investigation strengthened the sexual harassment allegations against him. Joe Biden replied, “Yes. I think he will probably end up being prosecuted as well. “
But the governor refused to resign and has been raising money to run for a fourth term, apparently determined to defuse the storm. However, the attorney general’s report could prove crucial to a state assembly investigation into whether there are grounds for Cuomo to be charged.
As part of the investigation, Cuomo sat down with interviewers and answered questions under oath, the attorney general said.
James noted that there were significant levels of corroboration and other supporting evidence related to the allegations.
“I believe these 11 women,” he said.
In his video statement from Albany on Tuesday, Cuomo responded directly to some of his accusers and claimed their actions had been misinterpreted.
“The facts are very different from what has been described,” he said. “First, I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old, I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That just isn’t who I am and it’s not what I’ve never been. “
The governor showed numerous photos of himself kissing men and women in public places and claimed that he was simply being affectionate.
He added: “I kiss people on the forehead. I kiss people on the cheek. I kiss people on the hand. I hug people. I hug people, men and women. Sometimes I say, ‘Ciao bella’. Sometimes I slip in and say darling or darling or darling, I joke with people. I tell jokes, some better than others. “