New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he would step down in two weeks over a sexual harassment scandal that has crippled his government.
Cuomo’s shock announcement on a live stream from his Manhattan office came minutes after his attorney, in her own statement to reporters, again denied allegations that he sexually molested anyone during the Democrat’s three terms.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will replace Cuomo and become the first female governor of the Empire State.
Cuomo’s resignation comes a week after a scathing attorney general report found he sexually molested current and former employees, as well as a police officer assigned to his protection group, and women outside the government.
It also comes that at least five district attorneys are investigating possible crimes by Cuomo against some of the women or have requested evidence from the AG’s report.
Cuomo, 63, said he was motivated to step down to avoid months of distraction for the state, which remains grappling with the Covid pandemic, from almost certain impeachment on allegations that he sexually molested at least 11 women.
“I think the best thing I can do now, given the circumstances, is to step aside and let the government go back to the government, and that’s why I’m going to do that because I work for you and doing the right thing is right for you too do, “said Cuomo.
“Thank you for letting me serve you. It was the honor of your life, ”said Cuomo.
“Godd bless you.”
Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat who turns 63 this month, said in a tweet, “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It’s right and in the best interests of New Yorkers.”
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is the next to succeed, I am ready to lead as the 57th governor of New York State,” wrote Hochul.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks on August 10, 2021.
Source: New York State
Cuomo strongly denied the women’s claims, saying the investigation was tainted by bias against him and by politics.
On Tuesday, Cuomo referred emotionally to his own three daughters, saying, “I want them to know from the bottom of my heart: I have never intentionally disregarded a woman or treated a woman differently from what I wanted to treat her.”
“Your father made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is about,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo is the youngest high-ranking New York Democrat politician to be hit by a sex scandal.
In 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelations that paid for sex with a prostitute.
Former MP Anthony Weiner went to federal prison for more than a year in late 2017 after pleading guilty to sexing an underage girl. Eric Schneiderman resigned as attorney general in 2018 after four women accused him of physical abuse. Schneiderman had succeeded Cuomo as attorney general.
Cuomo’s resignation came five months after charges of molestation against him exploded in public.
His fall marks a staggering turnaround in his political fortune in 2020, when his handling of the Covid pandemic was widely acclaimed and he was awarded a lucrative book deal to write about his management.
The governor was also mentioned as a possible candidate for Biden or as a potential attorney general in the new administration.
Cuomo had resisted calls for resignation for months, which began after several former employees – Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett and Karen Hinton – accused him of inappropriate behavior towards them.
Other women described similar behavior on the part of Cuomo.
One of them, an aide, told supervisors that Cuomo aggressively groped her at the governor’s mansion last year after calling her on the pretext of dealing with a cell phone problem.
The unidentified woman’s account was forwarded to the Albany Police Department, which reached out to her representative.
From the dynasty to the end
Cuomo is a son of the late three-term governor Mario Cuomo.
He was previously the New York attorney general and secretary for housing and urban development in the Clinton administration.
Cuomo has three daughters with his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy, whose own father, Robert Kennedy, served as US attorney general under his brother President John Kennedy and was assassinated in 1968 when he ran for president.
Cuomo became a national star last year.
The governor had received praise for his no-nonsense press conferences explaining the grim toll of Covid-19, his frequent admonitions to take precautions against contagion, and his empathic response to the victims of the pandemic.
Cuomo’s hilarious interviews about Covid with his own brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, won some rave reviews, fed late-night comedians, and fueled criticism from media ethics.
The governor’s press conferences have often been compared to those of then-President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for questioning the conduct of his own medical advisors and repeatedly downplaying the threat of the virus. The governor of New York won an Emmy for his television appearances late last year.
But Cuomo’s Covid management – and his aggressive governance style as a whole – also bore the seeds of his political destruction.
Contrary to his own party
Although he easily won re-election twice, Cuomo long alienated many Democrats and progressives in the state.
Democratic state lawmakers were also angry about Cuomo’s past tacit alliance with a small clique of Democratic senators who for years effectively turned control of the state’s Senate over to the Republicans, despite the fact that the Democrats held the majority of the seats.
Throughout his political career, Cuomo has had a micromanaging, non-captive way of dealing with adversaries and would-be allies who are slow to bow to his will.
That style was fully reflected in Cuomo’s dealings with Queens Rep. Ron Kim, a Democrat, who said in April the governor loudly beat him on a phone call at home and threatened to reprimand him for criticizing Kim’s failure to disclose death dates related to Covid.
Kim and other lawmakers were upset after hearing from senior governor’s adviser Melissa DeRosa that his government had withheld data on nursing home residents’ deaths from Covid. DeRosa then claimed that the data was being kept secret to avoid being “used against us” by federal prosecutors under the command of Trump’s Attorney General William Barr.
Even when Cuomo adamantly denied Kim’s report of the phone call, he accused Kim of “unethical” behavior in assisting nail salon owners while lawmakers debated adopting industry reforms six years ago.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who himself has been a whipping boy for the governor for a long time, called the phone call “classic Andrew Cuomo”.
“A lot of people in New York state received these calls,” de Blasio said during an MSNBC interview.
“The bullying is nothing new. I think Ron Kim and it’s very, very sad, no officer, no person telling the truth should be treated that way. The threats, the belittling, the request that someone be correct change moment … I’ve heard this many, many times and I know a lot of other people in this state have heard that. “
The controversy over the phone call erupted just before former Cuomo adviser Boylan revived her previous claims that he sexually molested her.
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