New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would resign over a series of sexual harassment allegations in a spectacular drop from the peak of his career a year ago, when he was widely hailed nationwide for his detailed announcements daily and leadership during the darkest days of COVID-19.
The Democratic governor’s decision to serve three terms, which will take effect in two weeks, was announced as efforts in the New York state legislature intensified to oust him. The decision came after the New York Attorney General published a week ago the results of an investigation that revealed that Governor Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators said he forced women to unwanted kisses; touched them inappropriately; made jokes about their appearance and their sex life; and created a work environment “dominated by fear and intimidation.”
“The best way I can help now is to step aside and allow the government to get back to work,” Cuomo told a news conference.
Deputy Governor Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former Congresswoman from the Buffalo area, will become the state’s 57th governor and the first woman to hold the post.
The #MeToo-era scandal cut short not only a political career but a dynasty: Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor in the 1980s and ’90s, and Andrew Cuomo was often cited as a potential presidential candidate, a post that’s father his celebrity thought to ask. Although the scandal escalated, Cuomo was planning to run for re-election in 2022.
Cuomo still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with a number of prosecutors across New York State seeking to investigate him.
The series of accusations that led to the governor’s downfall began to appear in the news last December and continued for months.
Cuomo called some of the allegations fabricated, strongly denying that he had touched anyone inappropriately. But he admitted that he had embarrassed some of his assistants with the comments, which he said were unkind, and apologized for some of his behavior.
He portrayed some of the meetings as misunderstandings attributed to differences “between generations or cultures”, a reference in part to his upbringing in a loving Italian-American family.
While Governor Cuomo initially appeared challenging to hold office, state lawmakers launched an investigation into his dismissal, and almost the entire Democratic institution in New York abandoned him — not only because of the allegations, but also because of reports that his administration had hidden thousands of deaths from COVID-19 among nursing home patients.
The investigation into the harassment ordered by the Attorney General and conducted by two outside attorneys confirmed the women’s allegations and added new bitter information. The publication of the report left the governor more isolated than ever, with some of his most loyal supporters abandoning him. President Joe Biden also joined the voices calling for his resignation.