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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment claims:

Published on August 10, 2021 9:58 PM

by CAROLINE LINTON

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday after more than a decade in office as the state legislature pursued an impeachment inquiry and amid sexual harassment allegations. Cuomo, who gained national prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, had been accused in a report by the state attorney general of sexually harassing 11 women, including staffers as well as people who did not work for his administration.

"I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing," Cuomo said in a speech.

His resignation is effective in 14 days. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take over.

Cuomo's announcement came one week after state Attorney General Letitia James announced the findings of her investigation into claims of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment against him. Cuomo's top adviser, Melissa DeRosa, who was mentioned more than 180 times in the report, resigned Sunday night.

A majority of the New York Assembly, once filled with Cuomo's allies, supported impeaching the governor, according to a count by the Associated Press. The Judiciary Committee had announced Monday that their impeachment inquiry would be wrapping up soon. They were not only investigating sexual harassment claims, but also his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, allegations related to the use of state resources in connection with Cuomo's memoir and other issues.

In the roughly half-hour speech, Cuomo started out by defending himself and said his "instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated." He continued to try to cast himself as being a victim of changing attitudes and behaviors.

"In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line is redrawn," Cuomo said. He apologized to the women for his conduct.

But one of his accusers, Brittany Commisso, told "CBS This Morning" and the Albany Times Union that she decided to come forward in March after he denied the allegations and said he did nothing wrong. She said she felt he knew he had done something wrong.

"He almost has this smirk that he thinks that he's untouchable," Commisso said. "I almost feel like he has this sense of almost a celebrity status and it just — that was the tipping point. I broke down. I said 'He is lying.'"

The attorney general's report described an "unsafe" and "hostile" work environment in the governor's office. It included testimony from Commisso, who said she was terrified of senior staff, including DeRosa, learning about her accusations.

Cuomo announced he would be resigning right after his outside counsel, Rita Glavin, tried to poke holes in some of the allegations in James' investigation.

"I think women should be believed and treated fairly. I also believe men should be believed and treated fairly," Glavin said. "The governor deserves to be treated fairly."

In his resignation speech Tuesday, Cuomo also directly addressed his daughters, saying his "greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them."

Cuomo and Glavin both sought to blame the media firestorm — which had once brought him national attention and adoration — for moving without investigating the facts.

"This is about politics," Cuomo said. "And our political system today is too often driven by the extremes. Rashness has replaced reasonableness. Loudness has replaced soundness. Twitter has become the public square for policy debate. There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender-based actions, on generational and cultural behavior differences, on setting higher standards and finding reasonable resolutions. But the political environment is too hot and too reactionary for that right now."

But Cuomo, who was first elected governor in 2010, is a product of that political environment he now criticizes. The son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, he got his start in politics working for his father before accepting a position in the Clinton administration.

In 1990, he married Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, in a union called "Cuomolot" by the tabloids. According to People, she said she fell in love with him after he took her to a homeless shelter. They had three daughters, Michaela and twins Mariah and Cara Kennedy-Cuomo, but they split up in 2003. Cuomo then had a long relationship with lifestyle TV host and author Sandra Lee that ended in 2019.

He first ran for governor in 2002 to challenge George Pataki, the man who denied his father a fourth term as governor, but dropped out before the primary when it was evident he would not win. He settled to run for attorney general in 2006, and oversaw investigations into then Governor Eliot Spitzer — who resigned in 2008 after being caught up in a prostitution scandal— and Spitzer's successor, David Paterson.

Cuomo ran for governor again in 2010, winning handily, and even was named one of People's Sexist Men Alive that year. In 2011, he led the passage of same-sex marriage in New York state, which he continues to call one of his greatest accomplishments.

But allegations of corruption have shadowed his administration for years. Cuomo set up a commission in 2013 to root out corruption in Albany, called the Moreland Commission, but a 2014 New York Times report alleged he hobbled its investigation. And in 2018, one of his closest advisers, Joseph Percoco, who Cuomo referred to as his "father's third son," was sentenced to six years in prison on fraud and bribery charges.

Although he had always been in the national spotlight, his daily televised briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic made him seem like a national hero to many. New York was hit hard by the pandemic early, and his frank briefings won him nationwide attention. He was even honored with a special Emmy Award for his appearances. His brother Chris Cuomo, an anchor on CNN, had previously been banned from covering him, but amid the pandemic the two began regular segments bantering on the air.

But amid the plaudits, there was criticism that Cuomo had mishandled aspects of the COVID-19 battle, especially in nursing homes. DeRosa, who had been seated next to him at many of the briefings, told Democratic lawmakers that Cuomo's administration took months to release data on the coronavirus death toll among the state's nursing home residents because officials "froze" over worries the information was "going to be used against us."

Before the sexual harassment allegations became public, Cuomo received an estimated $5 million to write a book on "leadership lessons" during the pandemic. The book sold a disappointing 48,000 copies but sagged amid the scandals. Eventually, even the Judiciary Committee said it would be investigating the book deal.

Cuomo had long been rumored to be planning to seek a fourth term in 2022, which his father, who died in 2015, had been denied. Republican Congressman Lee Zedin, one of several GOP candidates aiming to unseat him, had made running against "King Cuomo" a central part of his campaign.

As the weight of the scandals grew, a March 2021 photo showing Cuomo calling allies on a cold day outside, draped in a blanket, seemed to foretell his political future. Five months later, with few allies left, he announced he would be resigning.


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Andrew Cuomo's resignation won't take effect for two weeks. But Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is on deck to take over afterward.

WHY IS CUOMO WAITING 14 DAYS TO LEAVE?

Cuomo said he wanted to ensure a "seamless" transition to the new administration. He declared Hochul could be caught up to speed in a timely fashion.

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE NURSING HOMES INVESTIGATION?

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating how the state handled data related to nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. The state's official tally left out many people who had died at hospitals. An aide said Cuomo's administration worried the true numbers would be "used against us" by President Donald Trump's administration.

IF CUOMO LEAVES OFFICE, WILL HE BE SAFE FROM CHARGES?

Prosecutors in Albany, Westchester and on Long Island have already said their investigations into whether Cuomo committed any crimes will continue. Cuomo might be hoping that prosecutors or the women who complained about his behavior might lose interest in pursuing a case now that he's out of office.

WHAT ABOUT CIVIL PENALTIES?

The women who have accused Cuomo could still file lawsuits, and at least one — Lindsey Boylan — has said she will.

CAN CUOMO STILL BE IMPEACHED?

It's currently unclear whether the state Assembly can — or will — continue the probe and draw up articles of impeachment once he's out of office. And lawmakers already said the process would take weeks, making it unlikely it would wrap up in Cuomo's last two weeks in office.

DOES CUOMO HAVE REGRETS?

He "deeply, deeply" apologized to the "11 women who I truly offended." But he continued to deny the most serious allegations outlined in the report and again blamed the allegations as misunderstandings attributed to "generational and cultural differences." Last week, he personally said sorry to two accusers — ex-aide Charlotte Bennett and a wedding guest he was photographed kissing, Anna Ruch. On Tuesday, he added the unnamed New York State Police trooper who said he inappropriately touched her to the list.

CAN CUOMO RUN AGAIN?

Sure. There's nothing currently precluding him from throwing his hat in the ring for 2022. And although his donations dipped in the wake of the initial allegations, he had amassed an $18 million war chest as of mid-July. If he were to be impeached somehow, however, he could be barred from seeking statewide office again.

2022? IS THERE AN ELECTION NEXT YEAR?

Indeed. Cuomo would have been up for a fourth term next year. No high-profile Democrats have declared their candidacy yet, but U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani — yes, son of Rudy and another New York political scion named "Andrew" — are among the Republican contenders.

WHAT CAN CUOMO ACTUALLY DO IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS?

It's unclear how engaged he'll be in public policy in his final days, but the state is dealing with a soaring number of COVID-19 cases and has been struggling to get aid to tenants who fell behind on rent because of the pandemic.

IS CHRIS CUOMO GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS?

We're not expecting an appearance — let alone, a comment — from Chris Cuomo on his primetime CNN show, as he's currently on vacation. The younger Cuomo brother's role advising the governor was detailed in last week's report, and he didn't comment on that, either. The Cuomos were known for their on-air fraternal banter during the early days of the pandemic, but CNN eventually put the kibosh on the anchor covering his own brother.

WHERE WILL CUOMO LIVE?

He only moved to the governor's mansion in Albany in 2019. He previously lived with his ex-girlfriend, TV chef Sandra Lee, in the New York City suburbs. Lee owned that house. It remains to be seen where the now-single Cuomo — and his dog, Captain — will crash.

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Associated Press reporters Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York, and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York contributed to this report.