By Jonathan Allen and Nathan Layne
An investigation into accusations of sexual harassment by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo found that he groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to 11 women, creating a “toxic” workplace in violation of the law, the state’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday.
State Attorney General Letitia James unveiled the findings of the five-month independent inquiry, touching off calls from across the political spectrum for Cuomo to step down.
In a video statement issued after the attorney general’s briefing, Cuomo, 63, denied he had acted inappropriately and made clear he had no plans to resign. The civil investigation will not directly lead to criminal charges against Cuomo, but the Albany County district attorney is conducting his own probe and requested any relevant material already gathered.
Cuomo, a third-term Democratic governor who has served in the post since 2011, called the findings inaccurate and unfair. He said his accusers had misinterpreted his words, gestures and demeanor, insisting his behavior was always intended to convey warmth to the women.
The findings of the inquiry, detailed in a scathing 168-page report, could deal a devastating blow to Cuomo – once seen as a possible presidential candidate – and hinder his administration.
“What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the governor of the great state of New York,” said James, a Democrat. “These 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment.”
President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat who had previously said Cuomo should resign if the allegations were shown by an investigation to be true, said on Tuesday that he stood by that statement.
The report’s findings prompted some U.S. lawmakers and senior New York Democrats to demand Cuomo’s resignation, underscoring the swift fall for a governor who had became a popular national figure last year in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by presenting himself as an authoritative figure in daily news conferences.
While many of the accusations against Cuomo were previously known, investigators at the briefing also revealed some new details about what Cuomo’s accusers told them.
Anne Clark, a lawyer who helped run the inquiry, said one of the women Cuomo targeted was a state trooper. The governor stood behind her in an elevator and “ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said, ‘Hey you.'” The trooper, according to Clark, said Cuomo inappropriately touched her from “her chest to her privates.”
Cuomo, a divorced father of three adult daughters, said he is sorry if his behavior was misunderstood by his accusers, but denied wrongdoing. He said he would “not be distracted” from his work battling the COVID-19 pandemic, a sign he has no intention of resigning.
Carl Heastie, who as speaker of the Democratic-controlled New York State Assembly has authorized an impeachment investigation into Cuomo’s conduct, called the report’s findings “disturbing” and said they pointed to “someone who is not fit for office.”