New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned from his position on Tuesday, one week after state Attorney General Letitia James released a report that found he sexually harassed 11 women, including staffers and others who did not work for his administration.
"It was an honor to lead," Cuomo said in his closing remarks shortly following the announcement, noting that the transition will be effective "in 14 days." New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be his replacement and will serve as the state's first female governor.
"The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government, and therefore, that's what I'll do because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you," Cuomo said when announcing his resignation. "Because, as we say, it's not about me — it's about we. Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless."
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Following the announcement, Hochul released a statement agreeing with Cuomo's decision, calling it "the right thing to do."
"As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor," she said.
Hochul, 62, has served as lieutenant governor for the past seven years. Since the outset of the attorney general's report, she denounced Cuomo's alleged behavior as "repulsive and unlawful," adding, "I believe these brave women and admire their courage."
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Cuomo's remarks came just after his outside legal counsel Rita Glavin argued that the release of Attorney General Letitia James's report conducted by independent investigators gave the governor "no opportunity to respond, and a press cycle ensued. And journalists were saying things that he had groped and that he had fondled 11 women, and that wasn't true when that wasn't in the report."
On Aug. 3, James released a report conducted by independent investigators which found that the governor sexually harassed 11 women, both within his administration and outside of it. The fallout ensued in the past week, as numerous lawmakers and politicians called for his resignation, including President Joe Biden.
On Tuesday, the White House spoke in support of the move. "The president made clear his views last week, and those stand," press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "Our view is that this is a story about these courageous women who came forward, told their stories, and shared their stories."
James's report described an "unsafe" and "hostile" work environment in the governor's office. One of Cuomo's top advisers who was also mentioned in the report, Melissa DeRosa, resigned on Aug. 8, less than a week after the report detailed the sexual harassment.
In recent weeks, Cuomo repeatedly insisted that he would not resign and apologized to his accusers while denying any inappropriate behavior. On Tuesday, the New York governor appeared to be adamant about defending his name against the findings in the report but ultimately decided to give up his office.
He persisted in his denial of the allegations in the report, saying, "the most serious allegations made against me had no credible factual basis in the report." Cuomo added that there is a difference between "alleged improper conduct" and "concluding sexual harassment."
Amid his resignation, the governor issued another apology to those who alleged him of sexual deviance in the report.
"Now don't get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are, and for that, I deeply apologize," Cuomo said, still denying the veracity of the claims and saying he meant no harm in their prior interactions.
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Cuomo's fall from grace was dramatic. The New York governor was one of the most popular figures early in the pandemic, praised for his forceful leadership expressed in his daily press briefings, which won him an International Emmy Founders Award. However, throughout 2020, reports dribbled out of Albany that Cuomo's office had covered up the death count in nursing homes to bolster his public image.
These uncounted deaths, which were the result of a short-lived policy forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19-positive patients, prompted a January report from James that found that Cuomo may have undercounted nursing home deaths by up to 50%.
Both the FBI and the Biden Justice Department in February revealed investigations into Cuomo after DeRosa admitted the governor's office intentionally fudged the numbers to prevent the high death count from being "used against us." New York Democrats turned on Cuomo, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as one of the loudest voices against the governor.
As pressure for Cuomo to resign grew, the wave of sexual harassment claims further embattled him, and new details in the nursing home scandal were revealed, even more damning than the original cover-up. Cuomo's office, the Wall Street Journal found, had not "froze" nursing home death counting — it had actually kept the accurate data on record but altered the numbers in its reports.
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Cuomo began to lose all control when his sixth accuser alleged that he had not only harassed her but also groped her in the governor's mansion. This allegation prompted New York Republicans to push for the governor's impeachment, a cause Democrats also adopted.
Biden initially said that he would not call for Cuomo's resignation unless investigators found damning evidence against him, and he eventually called for his resignation on Aug. 3.
The governor concluded his resignation speech on Tuesday championing the policy of his time in office, highlighting the passage of gay marriage rights, a $15 minimum wage, and the 2013 SAFE Act, which banned certain assault weapons and cracked down on illegal gun sales.
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"We made New York state the progressive capital of the nation. No other state government accomplished more to help people. And that is what it's all about," Cuomo said.