New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns following sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned following sexual harassment allegations.

In a report last week, Democrat Mr Cuomo was found to have groped, kissed, or made suggestive comments to 11 women in violation of the law, prompting prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation and calls for him to resign or for him to be impeached.

President Joe Biden had also called on him to quit in the wake of the report’s publication.

FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, in New York, U.S., May 10, 2021. Mary Altaffer/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Image:Despite resigning from his post, Mr Cuomo has denied the slew of claims against him

In a televised address, Mr Cuomo denied wrongdoing – but said he accepted “full responsibility” for offending women through what he said had been attempts at being affectionate or humorous.

He said fighting the claims while remaining in office would paralyse state government.

“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government,”Mr Cuomo said during the address, which lasted 20 minutes.

Mr Cuomo’s decision will take effect in two weeks. He would have likely faced impeachment in the state’s legislature.

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In a statement after Mr Cuomo’s press conference, New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter: “Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories.

Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 10, 2021

“It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”

The move falls a spectacular fall from grace a year after Mr Cuomo was widely hailed nationally for his leadership at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was on his third term as New York governor. His father, Mario Cuomo, was governor in the 1980s and ’90s.

His deputy, Kathy Hochul, will replace him and becomes New York’s first female governor.

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Cuomo accuser waives right to anonymity

Mr Cuomo’s resignation comes a week after an investigation which found he sexually harassed 11 current and former state government employees.

Two lawyers independent of Mr Cuomo’s department spoke to 179 people and found that his administration was a “hostile work environment” that was “rife with fear”.

The findings prompted a raft of New York Democrats to call on the governor to quit, including members of Congress and the president.

Analysis By Martha Kelner, US correspondent

In many ways, it was an astonishing resignation speech because it has been overdue in many minds because of the weight of allegations against Andrew Cuoco.

But it was also unexpected given the way he has remained defiant in the face of these allegations for the past five days.

The conclusion of the New York Attorney General was that Mr Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women who were working in his office and he presided over a “fearful working environment”.

President Joe Biden had called on Mr Cuomo to step down, many members of the Democrat Party had called on him to step down and it really has been a vertiginous fall from grace for Mr Cuomo.

Just 12 months ago he was being talked of as a potential presidential candidate for 2024, he was gaining some level of international renown for the way he was handling the COVID pandemic in New York and then came these allegations.

One of his alleged victims waived her right to anonymity on Monday to try and bring some accountability.

Brittany Commisso, who was an executive assistant in his office, accused him of touching her bottom while the pair were posing for a photo together and claimed he put his hand up her blouse and grabbed her breast on a separate occasion.

Others have made similar complaints, which were published in that report. One said that he had kissed her on her lips without consent, another said he had asked her to play strip poker on a plane.

It wasn’t an unequivocal apology from Mr Cuomo. He apologised for his behaviour but denied it was sexual harassment claims and blamed “changing standards in society”.

There was an emotional moment at the end of the press conference when he spoke directly to his daughters and said “your dad has made mistakes but I’ve learnt from it”.

Mr Cuomo could still face civil cases and criminal charges, so this matter isn’t over for him.

But rather poetically, the woman who is taking over from him, Kathy Hochul, is the states first female governor in its history.

Speaking at the White House on 4 August, Mr Biden said: “I think he should resign.”

And New York Assembly leader Carl Heastie said Cuomo had “lost the confidence of the assembly democratic majority and he can no longer remain in office”.

State attorney general Letitia James announced the findings of the nearly five-month investigation on last week.

As well as complainants, the investigators spoke to current and former members of the executive chamber, state troopers, and others who had regular interactions with the governor.

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‘This is not who I am’ – Cuomo’s sexual harassment denial

Speaking at a news conference last week, Ms James said: “These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws.”

The investigation found that Mr Cuomo and his senior staff endeavoured to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing.

The allegations against Mr Cuomo emerged last year, after multiple claims that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women.

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Last week President Joe Biden said the governor should resign
Joe Biden says New York governor should quit

Joe Biden says New York governor should quit

One aide, that worked in his office, alleged he groped her breast and another, Lindsay Boylan, said the governor kissed her on the lips and “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs”.

The New York State Assembly is looking into whether there are grounds to impeach the governor – and the attorney general’s report is expected to play a key role in that process.

It has hired its own legal team to look into Mr Cuomo’s conduct, as well as other allegations of wrongdoing that have been levelled against him.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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