Andrew Cuomo urged to resign after sexual harassment report

Originally published in The Island Now on August 04, 2021.

Republican and Democratic officials throughout Nassau County and New York called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Tuesday after state Attorney General Letitia James accused him of sexually harassing multiple women, including former and current state employees.

Even President Joe Biden urged Cuomo to step down on the heels of the damning report James’ office released after a five-month investigation that threatens to cut short the Democratic governor’s political career.

Beginning in December 2020, women that previously worked for the state began coming forward with allegations that Cuomo inappropriately touched and harassed them on multiple occasions from 2013 to last year.

James’ investigators determined that Cuomo sexually harassed or assaulted 11 women, most of whom worked for the state. The 165-page report’s findings — based on interviews with 179 people — indicate Cuomo violated multiple federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York State’s Human Rights Law.

James, a Democrat, touted the women who came forward and spoke of their alleged encounters with Cuomo.

“I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth,” James said. “No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”

A flurry of bipartisan calls for Cuomo to immediately resign as governor were made shortly after the report’s release Tuesday afternoon — including one from Biden, who joined the chorus at a press conference.

“I think he should resign,” Biden told reporters. “I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach. I’m sure there were some embraces that were totally innocent. Apparently, the Attorney General decided there were things that weren’t.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed Biden’s remarks and agreed that Cuomo should resign from office.

“Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the Governor to resign,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called Cuomo’s reported actions “profoundly disturbing, inappropriate and completely unacceptable” in a joint statement Tuesday. The two also touted the work of James’ office for its investigative work.

“No elected official is above the law,” the statement read. “The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign.”

U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), released a joint statement touting the investigative work from James’ office and said Cuomo “created a hostile work environment and violated state and federal law.” 

The three lawmakers had refrained from calling for Cuomo’s resignation when the allegations against him started mounting earlier this year, but they reversed course Tuesday.

“The time has come for Governor Andrew Cuomo to do the right thing for the people of New York State and resign,” their statement read.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), who is leading the Assembly’s impeachment inquiry against Cuomo, said the report is being closely reviewed by the Judiciary Committee and called the findings in the report “extraordinarily disturbing” and “repugnant.”

“This is a difficult day for the People of the State of New York,” Lavine said in a statement. “I am deeply impressed with the professionalism and dedication of Attorney General James and counsel Joon Kim and Anne Clark,” he added, referring to the outside lawyers James tapped to lead the probe.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat seeking re-election this year, was one of several Nassau officials to call on Cuomo to step down.

“The Attorney General’s findings are clear,” Curran said in a statement. “The Governor must resign.”

“The report released today by New York State Attorney General Letitia James detailing the harassment of multiple women, breaking state and federal law, is deeply disturbing and unacceptable,” a statement from Nassau County’s Republican legislative majority said. “The Majority demands that the Governor step down immediately.”

“The findings of the attorney general’s report confirm what so many of us already knew- this governor isn’t fit to lead,” Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square) said in a statement. “I’m urging my colleagues to return to Albany and remove the governor immediately.”

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) encouraged the state legislature to take action and pursue impeachment if Cuomo does not immediately resign from his post. Kaplan called the accounts from women who came forward with harassment allegations “heartbreaking.”

“The Governor must resign immediately, and if he does not, the legislature must aggressively pursue impeachment,” Kaplan said in a statement. “The experiences of the women detailed in the Attorney General’s report are nothing short of heartbreaking, and I commend each and every one of them for summoning the strength to speak truth to power, even in the face of documented retaliation for doing so.”

Efforts to reach New York and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs for comment were unavailing.

Cuomo, in response to the report’s release on Tuesday, said, “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

In his response, Cuomo also displayed photos of himself embracing and kissing an array of New Yorkers.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said on Twitter that Cuomo’s response “further corroborates” the findings in the report and said the entire Executive Chamber “needs to be cleaned out.”

Cuomo also spoke specifically on the allegations made by Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant and health policy adviser in Cuomo’s administration. Bennett told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her numerous questions about her personal life and if age played a role in romantic relationships, along with saying he was open to relationships with women in their 20s, around 40 years younger than him.

Cuomo, on Tuesday, touted Bennett’s work ethic while serving the state and said she identified herself to him as a sexual assault survivor. Cuomo, who noted a family member of his also identifies as a survivor of sexual assault, said Bennett’s story “deeply resonated” with him.

Cuomo said some of the comments Bennett and her lawyer claimed he made “ascribe motives [he] never had” and “heard things that [he] just didn’t say.”

“Charlotte, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry,” Cuomo continued. “I brought my personal experience into the workplace and I shouldn’t have done that. I was trying to help — obviously I didn’t.”

Bennett, who was first hired by the state in 2019, left last fall, according to The Times.