Biden says Cuomo should resign; president leads a growing chorus
NEW YORK - With a probe finding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed current and former state employees, many of them young women, the chorus of people calling for his resignation is growing. The president is now among them.
The women had accused Cuomo of subjecting them to inappropriate kisses and touching or inappropriate sexual remarks. The nearly five-month investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, conducted by two outside lawyers who spoke to 179 people, found that the Cuomo administration was a "hostile work environment" and that it was "rife with fear and intimidation."
Cuomo has repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing. In a video statement released Tuesday afternoon, he repeated his denials and took aim at the legitimacy of the investigation.
"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," Cuomo said.
After delivering remarks about the pandemic, President Joe Biden answered a question from a reporter about whether he believes Cuomo should resign. "Yes," Biden said.
"I think he should resign," the president told reporters. "I understand that the state Legislature may decide to impeach. I don't know that for a fact, I haven't read all that data
After reporters asked some followup questions, Biden added that he had not spoken to Cuomo on Tuesday and that he was standing by his comments dating back to March.
"Look, what I said was: If the investigation of the attorney general concluded that the allegations were correct, that — back in March — that I would recommend he resign. That's what I'm doing today," Biden said. "I've not read the report. I don't know the detail of it. All I know is the end result."
Several of Cuomo's accusers demanded that the governor leave office immediately. One accuser, Charlotte Bennett, tweeted: "Resign, @NYGovCuomo." Debra Katz, Bennett's lawyer, said in a statement that the governor must resign as well as "his senior staff who protected and enabled him."
"If he does not, the New York State Assembly must accept the Attorney General's findings and begin taking the appropriate steps to remove him from office," Katz said.
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Jill Basinger, the attorney representing Lindsay Boylan, the first accuser to publicly come forward, said she and her client aren't surprised by the outcome of the investigation "because we know the survivors are telling the truth."
"We believe them. We all witnessed the governor's retaliation," Basinger said. "We are grateful for the extremely thorough work of the Attorney General and the investigators."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat but a political rival of Cuomo's, said the report "substantiates… severe misconduct" and called on the governor to step down now.
"Andrew Cuomo committed sexual assault and sexual harassment and intimidated a whistleblower. It is disqualifying," de Blasio said. "It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as Governor. He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately."
The Candidates for Mayor
Democratic nominee Eric Adams, who only a few weeks ago embraced the governor at a press conference, didn't directly call on Cuomo to resign.
"Attorney General James conducted a thorough and revealing investigation that yielded disturbing conclusions about the conduct of Governor Cuomo," Adams said in a statement. "It is now the duty of the New York State Assembly to take swift and appropriate action and move forward with impeachment proceedings if the Governor will not resign."
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Republican candidate Curtis Sliwa said the "weight of evidence" is against Cuomo.
"If this isn't a statement of why Cuomo must go, I don't know what is," Sliwa said. "He could do us all a big favor by resigning now. He should resign now and let his Lieutenant Governor take charge. Let's get rid of Cuomo once and for all for this, and for all the deaths of all those elderly people because of his executive order on Covid-19."
Other New York City Officials
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he commends the women for coming forward with their stories. He said Cuomo's actions are "intolerable."
"He is unfit to lead this state, and I reiterate my call for him to step down from office," Johnson said. "I also want to thank Attorney General Letitia James and the investigators for this thorough, independent investigation."
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New York City Public Advocate Jumanne Williams said in a statement that the investigation has "confirmed" what he believed when the "courageous women came forward."
"[T]he Governor repeatedly, with intent and without care for the pain he caused or concern for consequences, sexually harassed multiple women, violating the law and the standards which we must demand, especially of our elected officials," Williams said.
U.S. Senators from New York
In a joint statement, New York's U.S. senators reiterated their previous calls for Cuomo to leave office over his "profoundly disturbing, inappropriate, and completely unacceptable" behavior. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, said in the statement that the "independent, thorough and professional investigation" substantiated the accusations.
"[T]he Governor violated state and federal law, had a pattern of sexually harassing current and former employees, retaliated against at least one of the accusers, and created a hostile work environment," Schumer and Gillibrand said. "No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign."
State Lawmakers and Officials
Some Democratic and Republican state lawmakers and elected officials also said the time has come for the governor to leave office.
"The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called it a "sad day for New York." "The Attorney General's report documents unacceptable workplace behavior in the Executive Chamber at the highest level of state leadership," DiNapoli said. "The women who came forward are courageous, and they have been heard. As I stated months ago, the Governor should step down."
Echoing those remarks, Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt called it a "sad and sobering day for all New Yorkers." "It is time to bring this sad, tawdry and corrupt chapter in New York’s history to a close, and to restore decency, honesty, and accountability to our state's highest office," Ortt said. "New York is facing profound challenges, ranging from a wave of violence in our streets, to a badly battered economy. To effectively address these challenges, we need a change in leadership as quickly as possible."
Governors of Nearby States
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, and Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee said in a joint statement that their counterpart from New York should resign.
"We are appalled at the findings of the independent investigation by the New York Attorney General," the five governors said. "Governor Cuomo should resign from office."
GOP U.S. Senator
Asked whether Cuomo should resign during a radio interview, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, echoed the sentiments of other leaders.
"His behavior was unacceptable and the principled thing for him to do would be to step down," Cruz said.