Probe implicates New York governor in harassment claims

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under increasing pressure to resign or face impeachment after a five-month investigation by the state's attorney general revealed he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers. Cuomo denies the charges.

By

National News

August 3, 2021 - 2:37 PM

Former New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is under fire after an investigation alleged he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women. Photo by Don Pollard / TNS

NEW YORK (AP) — An investigation found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed nearly a dozen women in and out of state government and worked to retaliate against one of his accusers, New York’s attorney general announced Tuesday, hastening calls for the Democrat’s resignation or impeachment. 

The governor remained defiant, saying in a taped response to the findings that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” and that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

The nearly five-month investigation found that Cuomo’s administration was a hostile work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.” The probe, led by two outside lawyers, involved interviews with 179 people including accusers, current and former administration employees and the governor himself.

Anne Clark, who led the probe with former U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, said they found 11 accusers to be credible, noting their allegations were corroborated to varying degrees, including by other witnesses and contemporaneous text messages.

“These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The investigation’s findings, detailed in a 165-page public report, turn up the pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who just a year ago was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis, even writing a book about it.

Since then, he’s seen his standing crumble with a drumbeat of harassment allegations, questions in a separate, ongoing inquiry into whether state resources went into writing the book, and the discovery that his administration concealed the true number of nursing home deaths during the outbreak. 

While James concluded the investigation without referring the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, local authorities could use its evidence and findings to mount their own cases. Albany District Attorney David Soares said he will be requesting material from James’ office and welcomed victims to contact his office with information.

The investigation’s findings are also expected to play an important role in an ongoing state Assembly inquiry into whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo. The Assembly has hired its own legal team to investigate myriad allegations regarding harassment, his book, nursing homes and special access to COVID-19 testing. 

Several Cuomo accusers demanded swifter action, calling on the governor to leave office immediately. Some Democratic and Republican state lawmakers joined them, along with one-time Cuomo allies including county executives and leaders of left-leaning political groups.

“Resign, @NYGovCuomo,” Cuomo accuser and former aide Charlotte Bennett tweeted.

On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo and his senior staff worked to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing. Cuomo was also found to have harassed women outside of government, the investigation found.

The report detailed, for the first time, allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed a female state trooper on his security detail. It said that the governor ran his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back, kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she didn’t wear a dress.

The report also included an allegation from a woman who worked for an energy company who said Cuomo touched her inappropriately at an event. The woman said Cuomo ran his fingers across the lettering on her shirt, reading the name of her company aloud. Then he leaned in and said: “I’m going to say I see a spider on your shoulder,” and brushed his hand in between her shoulder and breasts, the report said.

“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,” Kim said at the press conference.

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