Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday in the wake of a report from the state attorney general that detailed allegations of sexual harassment by 11 women against Cuomo.
Cuomo framed the resignation as an action done for the benefit of New Yorkers to avoid political “distractions” during a critical time for the state.
Cuomo’s resignation will be effective in 14 days, he said, after which Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over the office.
“‘New York tough’ means New York loving,” Cuomo said during a speech from New York City Tuesday, referring to a favored motto he has used throughout the pandemic. “And I love New York. And I love you. And everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love, and I would never want to be unhelpful in any way.”
“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,” he added. “And therefore that’s what I’ll do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.”
Cuomo made the announcement after his attorney, Rita Glavin, pushed back in a live broadcast against the allegations in the attorney general’s report and the report itself, which she called biased. Cuomo also suggested the report was political, but said that he was sorry for his actions, which he said were not consciously meant to harass.
“In my mind I’ve never crossed the line with anyone,” he said.
Cuomo’s announcement represented his first public comments since a critical, pre-recorded response to the report was broadcast last week, and came after the report prompted calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden.
Cuomo had become increasingly isolated, with a top aide, Melissa DeRosa, resigning Sunday.
The state Assembly had already begun to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings, leaving Cuomo facing the possibility of being the second governor impeached in New York history. It was not immediately clear following Cuomo’s announcement whether the legislature would continue the impeachment process.
If Cuomo is impeached and found guilty by the state senate in a trial, the legislature could decide to make him ineligible for running for political office again in the state.
In a statement, Hochul said she was ready to succeed Cuomo as governor, and that she supported his resignation.
"I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down," Hochul said. "It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers."
Cuomo is resigning little more than a year after capturing the nation’s attention as its most vocal state executive in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to widespread popularity, an Emmy award for his television news conferences and a multi-million dollar book deal for his account of the early months of the pandemic.
His image as one of the Democratic party’s foremost leaders was punctured, however, by a series of revelations early this year, including that his aides had attempted to deliberately obscure the extent of deaths of nursing home residents due to COVID-19 and after a state lawmaker accused Cuomo of threatening to “destroy” him after the lawmaker signed a letter calling for the governor’s emergency powers to be rescinded.
Then came several allegations of sexual misconduct from both former administration staff and other women who encountered Cuomo at social events, leading to early calls for his resignation.
Yet Cuomo and, crucially, Democratic party leaders like Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an independent investigation, which the state Attorney General, Leticia James, began in March.
The investigation included corroboration for 11 allegations of sexual harassment, including a previously unreported claim by a state trooper assigned to Cuomo’s protective detail that he had run his finger along her spine in a manner she found overtly sexual.
During the Tuesday broadcast, Cuomo admitted wrongdoing but denied he had intended any sexual advances with any of the women included in the report, suggesting that his behavior was driven by cultural and generational differences with the women.
“This is about politics,” he said. “And our political system today is too often driven by the extremes. Rashness has replaced reasonableness. Loudness has replaced soundness.”