New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women — including government employees — and retaliated against one woman who made her complaints about his behavior public, according to a report released Tuesday by state Attorney General Letitia James. The investigation into the three-term governor's actions — prompted by multiple public accounts of assault and harassment leveled by former aides, state workers, and acquaintances — concluded that Cuomo violated both federal and state law and "created a hostile work environment."
The 165-page report published by the James's office was the result of interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of thousands of documents from the governor's office, including emails, text messages, audio files, and photos. It found that Cuomo harassed 11 women, including several members of his own staff. Those women, many of whom were much younger than the governor, were on the receiving end of inappropriate comments and were made to engage in "unwanted groping, kisses, hugging," James said on Tuesday. The report also found that employees of Cuomo's office were victims of fear and intimidation that often came directly from the governor. Cuomo denied the findings of the report, claiming in a video statement that "the facts are much different than what has been portrayed" and that he has "never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."
"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, federal and state laws," James said during a press conference. She concluded the report found "conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shine lights on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government."
Several victims of Cuomo's alleged harassment came forward publicly earlier this year. Lindsey Boylan, a former top aide to the governor, published an account of her time working in state government, including a claim that Cuomo kissed her on the lips against her wishes and made sexually suggestive comments to her. Another woman, Anna Ruch, told of an encounter with Cuomo at a 2019 wedding, during which the governor reportedly put his hands on her cheeks and asked to kiss her.
While these stories were already public, several instances of harassment unearthed by the investigation were not. One of those was the account of a state trooper who was reportedly hired by Cuomo to serve on his personal security detail despite not being qualified for the position. According to the report, Cuomo allegedly proceeded to sexually harass the woman multiple times, including rubbing his hand across her stomach and hip, running his finger up and down her back, and kissing her on the cheek.
The findings of the report have once again prompted calls for Cuomo to resign from office. The majority of New York's Democratic congressional delegation, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, signed on to a call for Cuomo to step down in March 2021. Today, New York State Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand issued a joint statement, saying they believe Cuomo should resign and that "no elected official is above the law."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called for governor to leave his post in March, reiterated that sentiment today. "It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as governor," he said.
President Joe Biden later added to the chorus, telling reporters, "I think he should resign." As for whether or not he believes Cuomo should be impeached, the President said to "take one thing at a time."
In his video response, Cuomo not only denied any wrongdoing, but he also chalked up his behavior — which he believes has been misunderstood — as a difference of "generational or cultural perspectives."
"I do kiss people on the forehead," he said as a slideshow of several images of Cuomo kissing and embracing various people — seemingly as a sort of defense — began to play. "I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand. I do embrace people. I do hug people, men and women. ... I do it with everyone."
The governor said his attorney would provide a point-by-point rebuttal to the report on his website, though it does not appear to be available at the time of publication.
Cuomo's response is a continuation of his denial of any wrongdoing, which he has held since the first accusations came to light. In March, Cuomo claimed, "I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone, I never abused anyone,” and insisted, "I’m not going to resign." While he did not address the possibility of resignation during his 14-minute statement, it appears he has no intention of stepping down.
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