By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax
Faced with mounting legal pressures and demands for his departure from President Joe Biden and others, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned on Tuesday following an inquiry that found he sexually harassed 11 women, capping a startling downfall for one of the most prominent politicians in the United States.
A Democrat who had served since 2011 as governor of the fourth most-populous state, Cuomo made the announcement a week after New York Attorney General Letitia James released the results of a five-month independent investigation that concluded he had engaged in conduct that violated U.S. and state laws.
In a televised, 20-minute address, Cuomo, 63, said his resignation would take effect in 14 days, derailing a long political career that once appeared headed for a possible U.S. presidential campaign.
Cuomo again denied any wrongdoing, though he said he accepted “full responsibility” for what he characterized as ill-conceived attempts to be affectionate or humorous.
He said he had concluded that fighting the accusations while remaining in office would paralyze state government and cost taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the coronavirus pandemic still poses a major threat.
“I think, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government – and therefore that’s what I’ll do,” he said.
Cuomo’s resignation spared him from possible removal from office through impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-controlled state legislature, which appeared overwhelmingly likely as lawmakers abandoned him in droves.
The investigation, detailed in a 168-page report, found that Cuomo groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to women including current and former government workers – one a state trooper – and retaliated against at least one woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat from western New York, will take over as governor of the state of more than 19 million people until the end of Cuomo’s term in December 2022 as outlined in the state constitution, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down,” Hochul said in a statement. “It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers.”