New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he would be resigning, days after a bombshell report released by the New York attorney general’s office concluded that he had sexually harassed 11 women.
“I love New York and I love you and everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love and I would never want to be unhelpful in any way,” Cuomo said in a speech, as he seemed to fight back tears. “I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now, is if I step aside.”
The embattled Democratic governor, who was renowned as a hero of the coronavirus pandemic before dramatically tumbling back to earth in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, said that his resignation would be effective in 14 days. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over as New York governor, becoming the state’s first female governor.
Cuomo has denied that he ever touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. In his Tuesday speech, he said he took “full responsibility” for being “too familiar” with people.
“I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men,” he said. “I have done it all my life. It’s who I’ve been, since I can remember. In my mind, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate.”
No less than President Joe Biden has called for Cuomo’s resignation, as have a phalanx of top Democrats, including New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Last week, Brittany Commisso, a Cuomo aide who accused him of groping her, filed a criminal complaint against him.
Still, the resignation of one of the most famously pugnacious governors in the country was far from assured.
Cuomo’s team did continue to fight the allegations until the end: Ahead of his speech, Cuomo’s attorney, Rita Glavin, spent 40l minutes attempting to dissect the 165-page report, which was led by independent investigators who, as part of their probe, interviewed 179 people and reviewed tens of thousands of records. Glavin suggested that the investigation had been rigged from the start and had ignored what she said would be key evidence.
“From day one, this was about building a case against Gov. Cuomo,” Glavin said.
The attorney attacked the credibility of one accuser, Lindsey Boylan, and said that investigators had not done enough to capture records that could refute Commisso’s account. Pulling up a selfie of a smiling Commisso and Cuomo, which Commisso has said was taken right after the governor touched her butt for several seconds in December 2019, Glavin said, “I think that this picture demonstrates a comfort level and someone who wanted a selfie with the governor.”
In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Monday, Commisso said that, when she first tried to take a selfie with the governor, her hands shook so badly the photos were blurry. Cuomo then suggested that the pair sit on a couch. “I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I don’t think on the couch that he would have a way to do what he just did.’ So I felt safer, actually, on the couch.”
The report also found that Cuomo had made “increasingly suggestive” comments to Commisso while she worked for him, including making a remark to the effect of, “If you were single, the things I would do to you.”
Glavin also questioned whether Cuomo’s behavior toward some of these women even qualified as sexual harassment. She talked of one woman, who told investigators she met Cuomo at an event in May 2017. She was wearing a shirt with her employer’s name on it, and, per the report, Cuomo “ran two fingers across her chest,” reading the name of the employer and pressing down on the letters in the name as he went. Cuomo then leaned in and told the woman, “‘I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,’ before brushing his hand in the area between her shoulder and breasts (and below her collarbone),” according to the report.
“The governor did not mean to grope her,” Glavin said. “To say that the governor would try to grope somebody working a rope line with cameras around—he certainly would never have intended to do that. And I don’t mean to take away from how this woman felt, but we do need to think about, qualitatively, what each of the women are saying and whether these are the types of things that are impeachable offenses.”
Impeachment has been a real concern for the governor since the report’s release: Last week, the Associated Press reported that a majority of the members of New York’s state Assembly supported beginning impeachment proceedings against Cuomo.
Throughout his speech Tuesday, Cuomo cast himself as a martyr—someone who may have been merely out of step with the changing times, but who would ultimately step aside for the good of the people. He also evoked the proverb of male politicians everywhere: He’s a father of daughters.
“I want my three jewels to know this: My greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them. It is still, in many ways, a man’s world,” Cuomo said. He added, “I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I never did and never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated.”