New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, according to the findings of an investigation into the matter. The women come from in and out of state government, announced New York's Attorney General Letitia James.
The almost five-month investigation found his administration was a "hostile work environment" and "rife with fear and intimidation." Two lawyers interviewed 179 people total, including Cuomo's accusers, current and former administration employees and the governor, according to CP24.
A detailed, 165-page public report amplified pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who received praise last year for his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the investigation into the allegations ruined his reputation further after discovering that his administration concealed the number of COVID nursing home deaths in his state.
Several of Cuomo's accusers demanded swifter action and for his immediate dismissal. Democratic and Republican state lawmakers supported the call to action, including allies to the governor, county executives and leaders of left-leaning political groups. The report will be crucial in determining whether Cuomo can and should be impeached, according to the Toronto Sun.
Carl Heastie, the speaker of the Democrat-led New York Assembly, authorized an impeachment investigation into Cuomo’s conduct and called the report’s findings "disturbing." She said they reflect "someone who is not fit for office."
State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate majority leader, said the report detailed "unacceptable behaviour" and called on Cuomo to "resign for the good of the state." She added: "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."
In the hours leading into James' announcement, Cuomo's office issued numerous press releases, including the completion of mixed-use housing in Buffalo, plans to build a new $3.9 billion terminal at Kennedy Airport and JetBlue's decision to keep its headquarters in New York. As James spoke, Cuomo's publicists sent out a release about reclaiming the sites of old power plants.
In response to the findings, he said that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed" as he appeared to reject calls for his resignation. Cuomo tried to explain the encounters as how he typically showed affection to others. The video he released showed multiple pictures of him hugging and kissing men and women of different ages in seemingly consensual interactions.
"I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," said Cuomo. "I am 63 years old. I’ve lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am. And that’s not who I have ever been."
His defiant position on the allegations involved denying that he touched anyone inappropriately. But, he initially said he was sorry if his behaviour with women was "misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation." Recently, he has become more combative, stating that he did nothing wrong while questioning the motives of accusers and critics.
Employment lawyer Anne Clark and former US Attorney Joon Kim led the probe. They said 11 of the accusers were "credible," citing corroboration of varying degrees to support their allegations, including other witnesses and accompanying texts.
"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws," said James on Tuesday. The investigation concluded without any referrals to criminal prosecutors, which leaves local authorities with the option to use its evidence and findings to mount their own cases.
Last winter, multiple allegations came forth claiming he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women he worked with as well as those he met at public events.
The report detailed allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed a female state trooper on his security detail. He supposedly ran his hand across her stomach and her back, kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she didn't wear a dress.
The report also included an allegation from a woman who worked for an energy company who said Cuomo touched her inappropriately at an event. The woman said Cuomo ran his fingers across the lettering on her shirt, reading the name of her company aloud. Then he leaned in and said: "I'm going to say I see a spider on your shoulder," and brushed his hand in between her shoulder and breasts, the report said.
Cuomo also retaliated against one of his accusers, which quickly renewed calls for the Democrat's resignation or impeachment. One aide in his office said he groped her breast. Another, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."
After Boylan first went public with her allegations in December, the governor and his staff undercut her story by releasing personnel memos to media that revealed she resigned after complaints she belittled her staff. Boylan said those records "were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me."
Other aides have said Cuomo also asked questions about sex and dating, with a former aide, Charlotte Bennett, stating he wondered if she was open to sex with an older man.
"Some suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts. Others suffered through repeated offensive, sexually suggestive, or gender-based comments," said Kim Tuesday. "A number of them endured both. None of them welcomed it. And all of them found it disturbing, humiliating, uncomfortable and inappropriate."
Last month, Cuomo admitted asking Bennett whether she had been involved with older men and said he might have kissed the state trooper at an event. He also denied groping a woman's breasts at his mansion, stating, "I would have to lose my mind to do such a thing" to a woman he hardly knew with multiple staff members around.
"These brave women stepped forward to speak truth to power and, in doing so, they expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so," said Kim.
Cuomo questioned Kim's and Clark's neutrality, noting the former investigated suspected corruption within Cuomo's administration but hasn't presented evidence to substantiate why he believes that would make Kim biased.
New York state regulations state sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature - from unwanted flirtation to sexual jokes - that creates an offensive work environment, regardless of a perpetrator's intent.
The governor repeatedly argued that he did not intend to harass anyone. His office said he took the state's mandated sexual harassment training but did not provide corroborating documentation.
Cuomo advocated a 2019 state law that made it easier for sexual harassment victims to prove their case in court. Alleged victims no longer have to meet the high bar of proving sexual harassment is "severe and pervasive."