Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday due to a flurry of sexual harassment allegations in a fall from grace.
In a televised speech, the 63-year-old Democrat emphatically denied having intentionally shown any disrespect for women, but said fighting what he called a “politically motivated” attack on him would subject the state to months of turmoil, and “I can’t be the because of that.”
“The best way to help now is to step back and let the government go back to the government,” Cuomo said.
The Democratic governor’s three-term decision, which will take effect in two weeks, was heralded as a built-in push in the legislature to remove him for impeachment. This came after the New York attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators said he subjected women to unwanted kisses; he felt her breasts or buttocks or touched them inappropriately; made insinuating comments about her appearance and sex life, and created a work environment “filled with fear and intimidation”.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former Buffalo-area member of Congress, will become the state’s 57th governor and the first woman to hold the position.
The scandal of the #MeToo era disrupted not only a career but a dynasty as well: Cuomo’s father Mario Cuomo was governor in the 1980s and 1990s, and young Cuomo was frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for president, office that her father notoriously contemplated on searching. Even as the scandal grew, Cuomo planned to run for re-election in 2022.
Cuomo still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with several prosecutors across the state moving in to investigate him.
The series of accusations that caused the governor’s fall began to unfold into reports last December and lasted for months.
Cuomo called some of the allegations fabricated, vehemently denying that he touched anyone inappropriately. But he acknowledged having made some aides uncomfortable with comments that he intended to be joking and apologized for some of his behavior.
He portrayed some of the encounters as misunderstandings attributable to “generational or cultural” differences, a reference in part to his upbringing in a loving Italian-American family.
As a defiant Cuomo clung to office, state lawmakers launched an impeachment investigation, and nearly the entire Democratic establishment in New York abandoned him – not just because of the accusations, but also because of the discovery that his government had concealed thousands of deaths in COVID-19 among patients in nursing homes.
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The harassment investigation ordered by the attorney general and conducted by two outside lawyers corroborated the women’s accounts and added new ones. The release of the report left the governor more isolated than ever, with some of his most loyal supporters abandoning him and President Joe Biden joining those who called on him to step down.
Her accusers included an aide who said Cuomo felt her breast at the governor’s mansion. Investigators also the governor’s team retaliated against one of his accusers, leaking confidential personal files about her.
As governor, Cuomo has called himself an example of a “progressive Democrat” who gets things done: Since taking office in 2011, he’s helped pass legislation that legalized gay marriage, started raising the minimum wage to $15, and expanded the benefits of paid family leave. He also supported major infrastructure projects, including airport renovations and the construction of a new bridge across the Hudson River, which he named after his father.
While the behavior that got him in trouble was happening, he was publicly advocating the #MeToo movement and surrounding himself with women’s rights activists, enacting new protections against sexual harassment and extending the statute of limitations in cases of rape.
Its national popularity soared during the harrowing spring of 2020 when New York became the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak.
His a stubborn but empathetic response made television fascinating far beyond New York, and his stern warnings to people to stay indoors and wear masks.
His briefings won an international Emmy Award and he has written a book on leadership in a crisis.
But even those achievements were soon tainted when it became known that the state’s official count of deaths in nursing homes had excluded many patients who had been transferred to hospitals before succumbing. An aide to Cuomo acknowledged that the government feared the true numbers would be “used against us” by Trump’s White House.
In addition, Cuomo’s administration has been fiercely criticized for forcing nursing homes to accept patients recovering from the virus.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the state’s handling of data on deaths in nursing homes. In addition, the state attorney general is investigating whether Cuomo broke the law by using members of his staff to help write and promote his book, which he managed to earn more than $5 million.
The governor was also increasingly criticized for his harsh and sometimes vindictive treatment of other politicians and his own staff, with former aides telling stories of a brutal work environment.
Cuomo has been divorced since 2005 from author and activist Kerry Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family, and was romantically involved until 2019 with TV lifestyle personality Sandra Lee. He has three adult daughters.
During his resignation speech, he addressed his daughters directly, saying: “I want you to know from the bottom of my heart: I have never and would never intentionally disrespect a woman or treat a woman any differently than I would like a treaty to be made. His father made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is all about. ”
He gained early political experience as his father’s dogged and often ruthless campaign manager and became New York’s attorney general and US housing secretary under President Bill Clinton before being elected governor in 2010.
New York has seen a number of high-profile political figures brought down from grace in recent years.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 in a call-girl scandal. Rep. Anthony Weiner went to prison for sexting a 15-year-old girl. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in 2018 after four women accused him of abuse. And the two main leaders of the Legislature were convicted of corruption.