New York Governor Andrew Cuomo groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to 11 women in violation of the law, the state’s attorney general said on Tuesday, prompting local prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation and reigniting calls for him to resign or be impeached.
The findings of a five-month investigation into allegations of sexual harassment found the governor created a “toxic” workplace and that his office illegally retaliated against the first accuser to go public.
After state Attorney General Letitia James unveiled the probe’s conclusions, President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats called on the party’s one-time star to resign.
But in a video statement issued after James’ briefing, Cuomo, 63, made clear he had no plans to do so and denied he had acted inappropriately.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said.
A third-term Democratic governor who has served in the post since 2011, Cuomo called the findings inaccurate and unfair. He said his accusers had misinterpreted his words, gestures and demeanour, insisting his behaviour was always intended to convey warmth to the women.
The investigation marked a swift fall for a governor who became a popular national figure in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by presenting himself as an authoritative presence in daily news conferences.
The findings, detailed in a scathing 168-page report, could deal a devastating blow to Cuomo – once seen as a possible presidential candidate and a former U.S. housing secretary under President Bill Clinton- and hinder his administration.
“What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the governor of the great state of New York,” said James, also a Democrat. “These 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment.
Biden told reporters at the White House: “I think he should resign.”
“I’m sure there are some totally innocent embraces. But apparently, the attorney general decided some things weren’t,” Biden said.
The Democratic-controlled New York Assembly speaker said an impeachment investigation would conclude “as quickly as possible” after receiving evidence from James’ probe.
The civil investigation found the actions of Cuomo and his senior advisers “violated multiple state and federal laws,” James’ office said, but she did not pursue criminal charges.
After the report was published, the district attorney for Albany County, David Soares, announced his office had opened an investigation to see if any conduct rose to the level of a crime. Albany County is home to the city of Albany, the New York state capital.