One week after the release of a damning state attorney general’s report detailing allegations of sexual harassment from 11 different women, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he is resigning from office in 14 days. After Cuomo leaves office, current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will become the state’s first female governor.
Pressure had been mounting on Cuomo throughout the week after pretty much every top Democratic elected official, including President Joe Biden, called for him to resign, and the New York State Assembly’s judiciary committee prepared to move forward with impeachment. It had been reported on Monday that Cuomo was seeking to bargain his way out of impeachment by promising to forgo a fourth run for governor, but Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie stated plainly, “I am not negotiating any deals.”
Cuomo still faces the possibility of misdemeanor charges in Albany for allegedly groping executive assistant Brittany Commisso during a work visit to the governor’s mansion. Commisso was listed only as “executive assistant one” in Attorney General Letitia James’ report but came public with her identity last week when she began cooperating in an investigation by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
On Monday, she told her story to CBS This Morning, describing in detail the alleged pattern of harassment and groping:
During his Tuesday press conference to announce his resignation, Cuomo defended his actions as innocent mistakes and seemed to blame cancel culture, claiming he was the victim of a “political environment [that] is too hot and it is too reactionary.”
“This situation and moment are not about the facts, are not about the truth, are not about thoughtful analysis. It’s not about how we make the system better. This is about politics and our political system today is too often driven by the extremes,” Cuomo said. “Rashness has replaced reasonableness, loudness has replaced soundness, Twitter has become the public square for policy debate.”
One of the biggest revelations from the attorney general’s report was that a state trooper assigned to the governor’s detail alleged that the governor had made inappropriate sexual comments and touched her in overly intimate ways.
“I don’t recall doing it,” Cuomo said during his resignation announcement, “but if she said I did it, I believe her.” He then went on to describe the allegation in the context of how he says he deals with everyone, including male troopers.
“When I walk past them I often will give them a grip of the arm, a pat on the face, a touch on the stomach, a slap on the back,” he said. “It’s my way of saying, I see you, I appreciate you, and I thank you.” Cuomo’s “I do this to everyone” defense was similar to what his private attorney, Rita Glavin, said prior to the governor’s press conference.
While conceding that he may have touched a woman during a public event on the butt and stomach, Glavin said that the governor “did not mean to grope her.”
“If the governor may have touched her rear end while he’s got his arms around the supervisor and this woman at a public event, he certainly did not mean to do it in a way that was sexual. He takes thousands of pictures,” Glavin said.
Glavin continued: “She claims that as he went through the rope line, he touched the logo on her shirt, which was her energy company logo, as he was greeting her. The governor did not mean to grope her.”
The New York Times reported that some of Cuomo’s accusers were already celebrating the news of his departure.
“My clients feel both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone,” Mariann Wang, a lawyer for accusers Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, said.