New York Governor Andrew Cuomo engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment of women employees in his state office, violating federal and state laws, an independent investigation by the state attorney general’s office has found.
“The investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said.
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“The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments,” James told a media conference on Tuesday.
Once a rising star in the Democratic Party, the 63-year-old now faces potential lawsuits and possible criminal prosecution amid calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats.
In a video statement on Tuesday, Cuomo disputed the findings of the independent investigation, said his conduct and motives had been mischaracterised by his accusers, and gave no sign that he was contemplating resignation.
He called the investigation a “long and painful” process for him and his family. “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
Eleven women shared stories of a “hostile and toxic work environment” with independent investigators retained by the state attorney general’s office, which will be releasing a full report to the public, James said.
Investigators spoke to 179 people including members of Cuomo’s executive staff and state police protective detail across a five-month period and reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence including emails, texts, audio files and pictures.
“These interviews and pieces of evidence reveal a deeply disturbing yet clear picture,” said James, who does not plan to bring state charges against the governor, instead leaving the legal fallout from the investigation largely to civil courts.
“We have concluded our investigation. Our work is done. As it relates to next steps, that’s entirely up to the governor and the General Assembly and the general public,” James said.
At the White House, Biden joined other Democrats in calling for Cuomo to go.
“I think he should resign,” he told reporters. “I’m sure there are some embraces that were totally innocent. But apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t.”
‘He can no longer serve’
New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins was among New York politicians calling for Cuomo’s immediate resignation.
“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,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement on Tuesday.
Statement from Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins pic.twitter.com/WW3uBqU8Kr
— Sen. Stewart-Cousins (@AndreaSCousins) August 3, 2021
“The fact that there are 11 women coming forward is deeply, deeply disturbing,” said Kirstin Gillibrand, a US senator from New York. “I do believe he should resign.”
Cuomo had previously denied the sexual harassment allegations by at least six women against him and refused to step down as New York state’s top government executive.
“What is alleged, did not happen,” Cuomo said during a news conference on March 12. “I’ve not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period,” he said.
State investigators on Tuesday described retaliation by the governor and his top aides against the women who brought allegations against him.
Police in the state capital of Albany have a report from one woman who said Cuomo touched her breast, investigators said. In his video statement on Tuesday, Cuomo said he would welcome a court trial of the facts in the case.
Biden had said in March, when the investigation began, that Cuomo should resign if it confirmed the sexual harassment allegations against the governor.
“I think he’d probably end up being prosecuted, too,” Biden told ABC News when asked about the allegations against Cuomo.
A group of 59 New York state legislators, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded Cuomo’s resignation in March after an allegation surfaced that Cuomo had groped a government aide at the governor’s state residence last year.
“The specific allegation that the governor called an employee of his, someone who he had power over, called them to a private place and then sexually assaulted her – it’s absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio, a Democrat who has publicly feuded with Cuomo, said at the time.