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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment claims: "The best way I can help now is to step aside"

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Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns amid sexual harassment scandal 04:45

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.

APTOPIX Cuomo Sexual Harassment
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to board a helicopter after announcing his resignation, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in New York. Cuomo says he will resign over a barrage of sexual harassment allegations. The three-term Democratic governor's decision, which will take effect in two weeks, was announced Tuesday as momentum built in the Legislature to remove him by impeachment. Seth Wenig / AP

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 has been 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. 


Watch: Andrew Cuomo announces resignation

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces resignation 10:47

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, effective in 14 days, while continuing to defend himself against sexual harassment accusations. Calling it a "highly political matter, he said, "The best way I can help now is to step aside and let government get back to governing." Watch a portion of his remarks.  


Hochul to hold a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday

ieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who will take over for Cuomo when his resignation takes effect in 14 days, plans to hold a press conference Wednesday at Cuomo's Manhattan office.

Hochul has not taken questions from reporters since Cuomo announced his resignation. In a tweet after his resignation speech, she said that "as someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State's 57th Governor."

By Caroline Linton

Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan says he was "attacking and blaming victims until the very end"

Lindsey Boylan, the woman who became the first to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, issued a statement Tuesday saying, "it is a tragedy so many stood by and watched these abuses happen."

"From the beginning, I simply asked that the governor stop his abusive behavior," Boylan said. "It became abundantly clear he was unable to do that, instead attacking and blaming victims until the end."

While Cuomo did not mention Boylan in his resignation speech, his attorney, Rita Glavin, did address her accusations in her Tuesday briefing. Glavin said New York Attorney General Letitia James' investigation disregarded Boylan's motives, and accused her of tampering with a witness.

By Caroline Linton

Biden says he respects Cuomo's decision to step down

Biden reacts to Cuomo's resignation as New York governor 01:52

President Biden said Tuesday that he respects Cuomo's decision to resign, after a reporter asked him for a reaction to the announcement. Mr. Biden had called for Cuomo to step down last week after the attorney general's report substantiated allegations of sexual harassment.

"I respect the governor's decision and I respect the decision he made," the president told reporters at the White House. 

Asked how Cuomo's actions and decisions reflect on the Democratic Party as a whole, the president did not draw larger conclusions. 

"I think the impact is all on Andrew Cuomo and his decision to make that judgment, I respect that decision," Mr. Biden said.

Still, apart from the governor's personal conduct, Mr. Biden gave Cuomo high praise over his work as a governor, saying he's done a "hell of a job." 

"That's why it's so sad," he said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Who is Kathy Hochul, who will replace Cuomo?

Kathy Hochul to replace Andrew Cuomo as New York governor following his resignation 09:49

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, stayed out of the spotlight during the attorney general's investigation. She declared the governor's behavior, as documented in the report, "repulsive" and "unlawful." 

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service," Hochul tweeted last week. "The AG's investigation has documented repulsive & unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women & admire their courage coming forward. No one is above the law."

Following Cuomo's announcement, Hochul said his stepping down was the "right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers."

"As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State's 57th Governor," she tweeted.

Read more about Hochul here

By Kathryn Watson

GOP gubernatorial hopeful says Cuomo "broke the law and criminal repercussions must follow"

Congressman Lee Zeldin, one of several Republicans seeking the nomination for New York governor in 2022, slammed Cuomo in a statement, saying he was trying to "skirt all repercussions." 

"Andrew Cuomo broke the law and criminal repercussions must follow, despite him no longer serving in public office," Zeldin said. "From his deadly nursing home order and coverup, to his $5.1 million self-congratulatory book deal and serial harassment and abuse of others, he's been unfit to continue serving for a long period of time."

Zeldin, who is from Long Island, is closely tied to President Trump, and he voted against certifying the presidential election results. He had made "saving" New Yorkers from "King Cuomo" a key part of his campaign, according to an interview earlier this summer in the Times Union.

By Caroline Linton

State troopers union says they "commend" trooper for coming forward

One of the most shocking allegations in James' report was made by a state trooper who told investigators the governor had touched her stomach while she held a door open for him. 

Cuomo said Tuesday he does not recall doing this, but "if she said I did it, I believe her." He apologized to her.

The state troopers union, which had called on Cuomo to resign last week, said Tuesday they "commend our Trooper for having the courage to come forward and reveal the sexual harassment that she endured."

The union slammed Cuomo's speech as "self-serving," and said they were looking forward to working with Hochul. 

By Caroline Linton

Cuomo resignation "closes a sad chapter for all of New York," state's attorney general says

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement after Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, saying "today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it's an important step towards justice."

"I thank Governor Cuomo for his contributions to our state," James' statement continued. "The ascension of our Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, will help New York enter a new day. We must continue to build on the progress already made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state. I know our state is in good hands with Lieutenant Governor Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her."

James, who once had been a Cuomo ally, was elected New York City public advocate in 2013, a position largely seen as a stepping stone to city mayor. But then she became Cuomo's choice to replace Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as attorney general in 2018 amid a report he physically abused multiple women. Although Cuomo initially tried to create a panel of political allies to investigate the sexual harassment allegations, he was rebuked by James. 

By Caroline Linton

White House did not get a heads up about Cuomo's resignation, press secretary says

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Cuomo's resignation is the "outcome" President Biden called for last week.

Psaki said Mr. Biden had not spoken to Cuomo when the attorney general's report came out, and still had not spoken to him. She said the White House was not informed beforehand that Cuomo would be resigning. 

Psaki said the president was meeting with members of his senior team and talking about the infrastructure vote when Cuomo announced his resignation. 

By Caroline Linton

Cuomo to his daughters: "Your dad made mistakes"

Cuomo directly addressed his daughters after he announced he would be resigning, saying his "greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them." 

"Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that's what life is all about," Cuomo said. 

Cuomo's three daughters, Michaela, Mariah and Cara Kennedy-Cuomo, were often prominently featured in his COVID-19 updates. Cuomo is divorced, and he and his longtime partner, Sandra Lee, broke up in 2019. 

By Caroline Linton

Resignation will take effect in 14 days

Cuomo said his resignation will be effective in 14 days. When it takes effect, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take over. 

"Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent," Cuomo said. "This transition must be seamless."

"She can come up to speed quickly, and my resignation will be effective in 14 days."

Hochul said in a statement that his resignation was the "right thing to do" and that she is "prepared to lead."

By Caroline Linton

Cuomo says "the best way I can help now is to step aside"

Cuomo started his speech by defending his actions, insisting norms and behaviors had changed over time. 

"In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn," Cuomo said. He apologized for offending the women, then turned his focus to the political situation he is facing.

Although he said his "instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated," he said he realized "the way the political wind is blowing."

"It will consume government, it will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, it will brutalize people," Cuomo said. "The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore, that's what I'll do." 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces resignation 10:47

The New York Assembly Judiciary Committee said Monday that it was wrapping up its impeachment inquiry into Cuomo, and gave him a deadline of Friday to submit any evidence in his defense.

By Caroline Linton
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