New York Governor Andrew Cuomo defiantly rebuffed calls for his resignation as more women havewith sexual harassment allegations against him, saying Sunday "there is no way" he will step down. But shortly after his press conference, New York State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, said he "must resign."
"Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government," Stewart-Cousins said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "We have allegations of sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data, and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project. New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, stopped short of saying outright that Cuomo should resign, but said in a statement that Cuomo should "seriously consider" if he can lead the state. "I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor's ability to continue to lead this state," Heastie said.
Cuomo insisted earlier Sunday that he continues to be focused on the state's COVID-19 response and vaccination effort, and said he would not be "distracted" by the allegations.
"I was elected by the people of the state, not by politicians," Cuomo told reporters Sunday. "I'm not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic."
Cuomo has spent the weekend reaching out to state leaders and legislators telling them he will not resign, two people familiar with the conversations told CBS News. In telephone calls, the governor is repeating what he has said publicly: Be patient and allow an investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James to proceed.
In these conversations, Cuomo is asking for due process, saying that others who've faced similar allegations have been afforded an opportunity for investigations to play out before potential accountability, according to one of the people familiar with the outreach.
Another person told CBS News that Cuomo has support across the state, "But you never know how deep or wide."
It was not clear who exactly the governor spoke with or how many calls he made, but the list includes Stewart-Cousins and other legislators, the two people said.
Two more women came forward on Saturday with allegations that Cuomo acted inappropriately, making it five women who have accused him. Whilehe was "embarrassed" and apologized for "any pain I caused," he struck a more defiant tone on Sunday. He has said an alleged incident with one woman, Lindsey Boylan, "didn't happen," and he said Sunday allegations from a former aide, Karen Hinton, are "not true."
One of Cuomo's accusers, Charlotte Bennett, described him as a "textbook abuser" in an exclusive interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell. Bennett alleges that on June 5 — during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in hard-hit New York — Cuomo asked her if she was ever intimate with an older man and said he was comfortable dating women decades younger than him.
to a friend and reviewed by CBS News memorialized her encounter with Cuomo immediately after the alleged conversation. In the messages, Bennett told a friend that Cuomo "talked about age differences in relationships."
Her friend, who verified the messages, asked: "Wait what," and "Did he do something."
"No," Bennett responded. "But it was like the most explicit it could be."
When asked by CBS News on Sunday if he was made aware of, Cuomo said he was not. He again insisted he would be awaiting the results of an investigation by Attorney General Letitia James.
"This is not about me or accusations about me — the attorney general can handle that. This is about doing the people's business," Cuomo said. "These next six months will determine the future trajectory of New York state."
On Sunday, the editorial board of the Albany Times Union, a newspaper that endorsed Cuomo's three campaigns for governor, said Sunday that he must step down.
But the newspaper focused on the other scandal embroiling the governor: The deaths of thousands of state residents at nursing homes during the pandemic and his administration's alleged attempts tothe full scope of the problem.
"New York cannot get through this public health crisis if New Yorkers don't know whether the governor and health officials are being honest with them from one day to the next," the editorial board wrote.
"Today was a body blow, for sure," said a state official, granted anonymity to speak frankly about the governor's political standing amid concerns about potential retribution. "It ain't over 'til it's over, but this was a bad 24 hours for him."
Cuomo said he has been focused on getting the state budget approved. New York state's constitution mandates the budget be approved by April 1, and Cuomo submitted his budget in mid-January. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York will be getting $12.5 billion in stimulus money in the, although Cuomo had sought $15 billion.
"This does not mean it's going to be an easy budget, but now it will be a possible budget," Cuomo said.
Cuomo also announced Sunday that with the exception of New York City, restaurants in New York state will now be able to open at 75% capacity.
Norah O'Donnell, Michael Kaplan, Julie Morse, Adam Verdugo and Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report.
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