New York Governor Andrew Cuomo denied mounting sexual harassment allegations and maintained his ability to lead as New York politicians called for him to step down after at least six women accused him of inappropriate behaviour.
“What is alleged, did not happen,” Cuomo said during a news conference on Friday afternoon. “I’ve not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period.”
Keep readinglist of 3 items
Along with an allegation that the governor groped a female aide at the Executive Mansion last year, Cuomo is facing allegations of sexually suggestive remarks and behaviour towards women, including female aides.
One aide said he asked her if she would ever have sex with an older man. And another aide claimed the governor once kissed her without consent, and said governor’s aides publicly smeared her after she accused him of sexual harassment.
A broad swath of the Democratic Party turned sharply against Cuomo on Friday as a sprawling coalition of congressional leaders joined dozens of state legislators in calling for the embattled governor’s resignation.
Cuomo’s growing list of detractors now covers virtually every region in the state and the political power centres of New York City and Washington. His allies insist he will not resign, but as allegations of sexual harassment grow, his political isolation has reached unprecedented levels.
“The victims of sexual assault concern me more than politics or other narrow considerations, and I believe Governor Cuomo must step aside,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat who leads his party’s House campaign arm.
Prominent progressive Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, New York Democrats, called on Cuomo to resign on Friday.
After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature & public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign. pic.twitter.com/jV5dwtuVPr
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 12, 2021
“After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature and public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
In perhaps the highest-profile call for resignation yet, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with the other New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, called for Cuomo’s resignation.
NEW: New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand call for Cuomo to resign pic.twitter.com/fMykGBT225
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) March 12, 2021
In recent days, more moderate Democrats in New York have raised concerns about the allegations against Cuomo, who has long enjoyed support from suburban and centrist voters. On Friday, a bloc of five moderate Democrats from Long Island called for Cuomo to step aside, at least until the attorney general’s investigation is complete.
— Senator Anna M. Kaplan (@AnnaMKaplan) March 12, 2021
Cuomo said he will not resign as reporters asked how he could remain in office with the growing opposition.
“I have to get a budget done with the legislature in two weeks. They are doing an investigation, and that’s fine … in the meantime, we’re going to negotiate a budget. In the meantime, I have to do millions of vaccines.”
Cuomo said the experience he brings to the governor’s office is an advantage, citing, “This is not the first time we’ve had to walk and chew gum.”
The 63-year-old governor is seeking his fourth four-year term next year. New York has no term limits. He has touted his administration’s passage of liberal goals such as same-sex marriage as evidence that his hard-nosed approach to politics works.
The escalating scandal jeopardises Cuomo’s 2022 re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, but also threatens to cast a cloud over President Joe Biden’s earliest days in office.
Republicans across the country have seized on the growing allegations against Cuomo to try to distract from Biden’s success with the pandemic and challenge his party’s well-established advantage with female voters.
“The President believes that every woman who’s come forward, there have now been six, I believe, who have come forward deserves to have her voice heard should be treated with respect,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.
“There also is an independent investigation that is ongoing, of course, in the state with subpoena power overseen by the Attorney General, and [Biden] certainly supports that moving forward,” Psaki said.
Cuomo also faces criticism over a January state attorney general report that estimated his administration had yet to reveal thousands of deaths among nursing residents to COVID-19, possibly as a result of Cuomo’s policies.