Andrew Cuomo Resigns as New York Governor After Sexual Harassment Investigation

Andrew M. Cuomo at the press conference for Governor Andrew Cuomo Covid-19 Coronavirus Update, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY March 30, 2020. Photo By: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection
Courtesy Everett collection

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he will resign from office after state Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation found he sexually harassed multiple women. He will step down within the next two weeks, ending a decade leading the Empire State. Cuomo promised to oversee a “seamless” transition and noted that New York faces challenges as it struggles to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and deal with new variants that imperil its recovery.

“This is one of the most challenging times for government in a generation,” he added. “Government really needs to function today, government needs to perform. It’s a matter of life and death, government operations. And wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I can not be the cause of that.”

New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take office and serve out the rest of Cuomo’s term until 2021. Hochul also makes history as New York’s first female governor. In a press conference announcing his decision to resign, Cuomo continued to deny the harassment allegations, although he did apologize for making jokes that were “insensitive and off-putting,” and added that he had “been too familiar with people.”

It’s a stunning fall from power for Cuomo, a three-term governor who had received praise for his stewardship of New York during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic and was once seen as an critical foil to President Donald Trump. But it is also a denouement that seemed increasingly inevitable as evidence mounted that he had presided over a toxic workplace culture and as political allies abandoned him.

The results of the bombshell investigation, released on Aug. 3, found that Gov. Cuomo “sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, called for Cuomo to resign after multiple women came forward with their allegations of Cuomo’s harassment earlier in 2021 and the investigation launched. In recent weeks, other party leaders, including President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, have pushed for the governor to leave office. After the allegations came to light and the calls for his removal intensified, Cuomo previously denied any wrongdoing and said he would not resign.

“Our investigation revealed that the Governor’s sexually harassing behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other State employees, including a state trooper on his protective detail and members of the public,” the investigation says. “We also conclude that the executive chamber’s culture — one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments — contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist. That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the executive chamber has responded to allegations of harassment.”

In his address, Cuomo veered from contrition to defiance.

“I’m a New Yorker, born and bred,” he said, at one point. “I’m a fighter and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful and I believe it demonizes behavior that is unsustainable for society.”

At another moment, fighting back tears, he apologized to his daughters, Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo, Cara Kennedy-Cuomo and Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo.

“Your dad made mistakes and he apologized and he learned from it and that’s what life is all about,” Cuomo said.