N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns amid sexual harassment allegations


Photo courtsey of Creative Commons

Andrew Cuomo speaking to an interviewer at Belmont Stakes

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo resigned from office on Aug. 24 following a flurry of sexual harassment allegations. At midnight, he officially submitted his resignation and turned his post over to former Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. The 62-year-old Democrat became the first female governor in New York State history.

This comes a week after an investigation from the New York attorney general’s office, which found that Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, both within and outside of the state government.

The women, whose claims were found true during the investigation, said that Cuomo engaged in inappropriate contact and made crude comments about their sex lives or appearance. One such incident was the groping of an aide’s breast inside the governor’s mansion.

Though the governor has not publicly denied the incidents, he claims that the facts “are much different” than those released. In his statement following the investigation’s conclusion, he also said that others have fed “ugly stories to the press.”

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said. “That is just not who I am.”

Cuomo had his own attorneys–Rita Galvin, Mitra Hormozi and Paul Fishma–conduct an independent investigation, which took a different stance on the issue. The 85-page report attacks the claims made by each woman in an attempt to clear Cuomo’s name. It includes a detailed counter to Lindsey Boylan, one of the more prominent accusers, saying that she made the accusations to help in her campaign to become Manhattan Borough president. Boylan denies this and plans on filing a lawsuit against Cuomo for his statements.

Regardless, the probe from the state’s attorney general had different findings. Following its release, Cuomo quickly became the center of criticism from Democrats and Republicans. President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer all said that the governor should resign.

This has led to a rapid downfall for the governor, who was surging on the national scene for his leadership early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, New York was the epicenter for a viral spread of COVID-19, with a spike in April 2020 of over 5,000 daily cases. However, Cuomo’s daily COVID press conferences were juxtaposed to those of former-President Donald Trump. These informed the public on COVID-related statistics in the state, while also allowing the governor to try and relate to those suffering in the pandemic.

It worked, with his favorability among New Yorkers jumping to 77% in May 2020.

This began to change as he was criticized for a state mandate that returned COVID-19 patients back to nursing homes. As of Aug. 19, there have been 8,618 nursing home resident deaths in New York, the third-most in the country. However, the state was criticized for underreporting deaths by nearly 4,000, as an attorney general investigation later found.

Despite this, Cuomo continually failed to accept complete responsibility for the error. One such excuse said that his administration underreported the deaths out of fear that the Trump Justice Department would embark on a politically motivated investigation. Another blamed nursing home workers who unknowingly spread the virus.

These revelations began to shift the public’s perception of the governor. Paired with the sexual harassment allegations, Cuomo’s approval rating dropped to 38% on Aug. 10. The New York Assembly also turned against Cuomo, as the Democrat-led group had launched an impeachment investigation to oust the governor.

Finally, amidst rising pressure from both the public and lawmakers, Cuomo decided to resign from his position. He became just the 16th governor to ever resign following allegations of misconduct.

New York’s leadership now falls into the hands of Hochul, who inherits a challenging situation. With COVID’s resurgence and a stumbling economy, the new governor has a lot of work to do over the next 16 months. Not only this, but she will also need to rid the state of the taste Cuomo left behind.

“I’ll tell New Yorkers I’m up to the task,” Hochul said in an interview with a Buffalo television station. “And I’m really proud to be able to serve as their governor and I won’t let them down.”