The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has resigned following an investigation by the state attorney general that found he sexually harassed multiple women, most of whom worked for him, and also retaliated after some made complaints.
The governor made a public announcement on Tuesday morning that he was stepping aside and said his resignation will be effective in 14 days.
He began defiantly by criticising Attorney General Letitia James’s report and warning New Yorkers about the dangers of “a bias or a lack of fairness in the justice system”, then said he thought his behaviour was acceptable but acknowledged that the 11 women James said he harassed were probably “truly offended” and said “for that I deeply, deeply apologize”.
The Democratic governor had lost the support of the party establishment, with Joe Biden calling on Cuomo to resign and similar demands issued by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of New York’s US Senators – one of whom is Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer – two Democratic New York congressmen, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and a host of Republicans in Washington DC.
Cuomo’s own No 2, the New York lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, had called his conduct “repulsive and unlawful”. She will now become the first woman to lead New York state.
The governor had presented himself as a champion of the revived #MeToo movement sparked by accusations against the now-convicted film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017. But on Tuesday Cuomo said that in his mind he had “never crossed the line with anyone” but “I did not realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn”.
He also said there was “no factual basis” for the most serious allegation against him, that he groped an employee’s breast, which prompted a criminal complaint that is being investigated by the sheriff’s office in Albany county, where the state capital and Cuomo’s executive offices and mansion are located.
Cuomo had initially stood defiant on the day the New York attorney general, Letitia James, had announced the findings of a five-month investigation in which she concluded he had harassed 11 women and violated civil law against workplace misconduct.
The 63-year-old governor issued a video address shortly after James issued the report of the investigation, on Tuesday 3 August, in which he said: “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances” and added “It’s just not who I am.”
Campaigners against sexual harassment and assault were outraged.
But his political future was dangling by a thread amid moves to impeach the governor and force him from office by the New York legislative assembly in the state capital of Albany.
Within three days of the report being released, four district attorneys in different parts of New York, including in Albany where the governor is based, and Manhattan, announced they intended to review the evidence James had gathered to assess the likelihood of criminal prosecution. And one of the alleged victim, a former Cuomo aide, filed the first criminal complaint related to the allegations with police in Albany, accusing Cuomo of groping her breast.
James’s explosive 165-page report had delivered a mountain of damning and often graphic evidence against Cuomo, a leading political figure who served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet and rose to the governorship in the footsteps of his father, Mario Cuomo, a Democratic powerhouse who served three terms as New York governor.
Unloved by progressives, New York’s Andrew Cuomo has the spotlight nowAmong the allegations was that Cuomo reached under the blouse of an executive assistant and grabbed her breast and that he ran his finger down the spine of a female state trooper assigned to protect him. (Guardian)