New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged to resign over sexual harassment allegations

Published : August 04, 2021 18:10 IST

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a file photograph. Photo: zz/NDZ/STAR MAX/IPx/picture alliance

A State investigation has found that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. U.S. President Joe Biden and other fellow Democrats are calling for him to step down.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on August 3 that Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat governor of New York, should resign from his post over allegations he sexually harassed 11 women. The call came after the New York Attorney General's Office released a detailed summary of its investigation into the charges.

Investigators found that Cuomo had "engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under New York State law," according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Speaking to reporters in Washington, Biden said: "I think he should resign."

Cuomo has denied inappropriate conduct and indicated he wouldn't step down. Earlier, he also faced calls to quit from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

New York State Attorney General James said the report was based in part on nearly five months of interviews that two independent lawyers had conducted with some 179 individuals — members of Cuomo's staff, state police officers, additional state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor.

"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture," said James, "Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws." Investigators say he harassed women outside of government as well.

What exactly did investigators find?

The report stated: "Specifically, we find that the governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women."

Investigators also concluded that Cuomo's office had created a "culture of fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the governor's frequent flirtations and gender-based comments." The Attorney General's Office found that culture had "influenced the improper and inadequate ways" in which Cuomo's office "responded to allegations of harassment."

Investigators found, for instance, that Cuomo and top staff sought to retaliate against at least one employee who accused him of sexual harassment. "These brave women stepped forward to speak truth to power and, in doing so, they expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so," said Joon Kim, one of the attorneys leading the investigation.

"Some suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts. Others suffered through repeated offensive, sexually suggestive, or gender-based comments," Kim said. "A number of them endured both. None of them welcomed it. And all of them found it disturbing, humiliating, uncomfortable and inappropriate.''

Cuomo pleads innocence: 'never touched anyone inappropriately'

Cuomo stepped before television cameras after the report's release to once again profess his innocence, saying: "I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," he said. "That is just not who I am. And that's not who I've ever been."

Does Cuomo have a political future?

Cuomo has steadfastly rejected calls to step down over issues related to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as well as mounting sexual harassment accusations. He has instead signaled that he will seek a fourth term in office.

Nevertheless, calls for his impeachment have grown louder with many observers pointing to August 3's AG report as an important milestone on the road to that end.

js/sms (AP, dpa)

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