By Ryan J. Degan
Local and regional leaders were quick to condemn Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, after an investigation by New York Attorney General Tish James found that the two-term governor broke the law by sexually harassing multiple women and by retaliating against at least one who publicly came forward with her story.
James characterized the day’s announcement as a “sad day for New York.”
“Because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” James said after the investigation into allegations of Cuomo’s misconduct was released.
“I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period,” James added.
Cuomo was seemingly left with few political allies after the report was released on Tuesday, which saw a flood of officials from both sides of the political spectrum calling for Cuomo’s resignation — with some saying impeachment proceedings may be necessary if he does not voluntarily step down.
“Such behavior would be inappropriate for anyone, but that it was committed by the state’s Chief Executive makes it absolutely inexcusable,” local Assemblyman Chris Burdick said. “If the Governor refuses to resign, as a member of the Assembly, I call on the Assembly Judiciary Committee to immediately introduce articles of impeachment and for the full Assembly to adopt them.”
(On Wednesday, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocach announced the office had reached out to the attorney general for “investigative materials” from their probe).
Conducted over nearly five months, the James investigation found that Cuomo violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the Executive Chamber’s own written policies, when he sexually harassed multiple women in his office by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing, hugging and making inappropriate comments. The investigation further finds that Cuomo and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against an employee who came forward with her story.
Shortly after the investigation was released, Cuomo was quick to deny the harassment claims, stating that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed.”
“I want you to know directly from me, that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said during a roughly 14-minute video response released Tuesday afternoon.] “That is just not who I am and that is not who I have ever been.”
Cuomo had previously vowed not to resign in the face of the allegations. But the chorus of public officials calling for him to step down has continued to grow.
“The AG report is damning and Andrew Cuomo should resign,” former two-term Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino, a Republican, remarked in a statement emailed to The Examiner. “For his pattern of sexual harassment and abuse of subordinates. For the 15,000 nursing home deaths and coverup. For the Moreland Commission, Buffalo Billion, Pay to Play, StartUpNY and numerous other scandals.”
“Most know today what I knew in his first term — that Cuomo is corrupt and incompetent and New York has been in steady decline during his 11-year reign,” Astorino also said. “While many of his top political allies and associates sit in prison today, the question remains just how much longer can he evade accountability and justice. But one thing I believe to be certain and have believed since his first term — Cuomo has to go.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) — who previously called for Cuomo’s removal — reiterated that she believed the governor should step down, saying: “This report highlights unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration. As I said, when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state. Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor.”
Stewart-Cousins added that “Our highest elected offices must reflect the values and integrity that they profess” and praised the “courageous” women who came forward to shed light on “this awful situation.”
Adding his name to the growing list of state senators calling for Cuomo’s removal, State Senator Pete Harckham (D-Lewisboro) said: “The report released by (the attorney general) finds (Cuomo) sexually harassed numerous women, which violates state and federal law. He must resign immediately. Those on his staff involved in the unlawful retaliation and coverup of the crimes must also resign.”
Over in the State Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office. The report has been forwarded to the members of the Judiciary Committee as well as all members of the Assembly. We will now undertake an in-depth examination of the report and its corresponding exhibitions with our Assembly counsels as well as the legal firm we have retained to assist us. We will have more to say in the very near future.”
Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer also condemned Cuomo’s acts, saying: “The Attorney General’s findings are clear and compelling. The governor must resign. The patterns of sexually harassing, intimidating and inappropriate behavior towards women cannot be tolerated.”
Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater also took to social media to blast the embattled governor and former Mt. Kisco resident.
“…The Governor must resign immediately,” Slater said. “The New York State Assembly must return to Albany to complete the impeachment process and the Governor must be held accountable for his criminal conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”