Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday, catching New Yorkers off guard, particularly after he began his roughly 20-minute-long speech with a seemingly defiant tone, calling himself a fighter.
The Democratic governor, 63, who has been in office since 2011, came under mounting political pressure to resign over the past week, with members of the State Assembly overwhelmingly saying they would move forward with impeachment hearings if he did not step aside.
The resignation came seven days after State Attorney General Letitia James issued a scathing report detailing alleged sexual misconduct by the governor. James’s report included testimony by 179 witnesses and 74,000 pieces of evidence.
Cuomo was apologetic toward the 11 women who had accused him of sexual harassment, but he denied any wrongdoing, saying it was in his nature to touch and hug those around him, including employees under him. He engaged in friendly gestures, not sexual advances, he insisted.
Cuomo’s resignation is to take effect in 14 days, after which the state’s lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will succeed him.
Lauren Giacalone and Savannah Smith, of East Meadow, said that when they learned of the governor’s alleged behavior in March, they found it reprehensible and wanted him to resign.
“I think if you’re going to be in a position of power, it’s important to know your actions have consequences,” Giacalone said. “Being professionally superior doesn’t give you the right to sexually harass and assault without repercussions.”
Smith said she believed Cuomo had gotten away with sexually harassing women for too long. “He is the biggest hypocrite when it comes to him being accused,” she said. “Sexual assault allegations . . . should have their consequences, and he should then as a result resign.”
Richie Krug said once Cuomo realized he had few allies left, he would resign, and he did. “I believe there are too many credible witnesses, too many victims lining up to give their accusations,” Krug said. “Based on that, he should be found guilty. He should step down. He cannot effectively govern now that his credibility is shot.”
James’s announcement was followed by calls for the governor’s resignation by nearly every New York state elected leader, and even governors from surrounding states. A few hours after the findings were released, President Joe Biden joined in, saying the three-term governor should resign.
New York State Assemblyman John Mikulin was among those asking the governor to step down. “Governor Cuomo should immediately resign,” the Bethpage Republican said. “I join my colleagues in the minority in calling for a special session to impeach the governor and hope the majority joins our call. The attorney general’s report confirmed that he is unable to lead the State of New York.”
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand were also quick to comment. “[The] report from the New York state attorney general substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories — and we commend the women for doing so,” Schumer and Gillibrand said. “No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the governor should resign.”
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had approved an impeachment inquiry into Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 12. The Judiciary Committee, chaired by Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Glen Cove Democrat, had been conducting the investigation. Lavine said the inquiry could last a long time, but Davis Polk & Wardwell, the committee’s independent counsel, advised Cuomo’s attorneys on Aug. 5 that the investigation could be completed by the end of the month.
“The findings are extraordinarily disturbing,” Lavine said. “The details provided by the victims are repugnant. Ths is a difficult day for the people of the state of New York.”
After announcing that he would step down, the governor listed a number of his accomplishments, saying New York had legalized gay marriage, banned assault weapons, raised the minimum wage to $15, made college tuition free for middle-class students attending state schools, built and rebuilt airports, bridges and roads, and battled racism and anti-Semitism.
Most recently, he noted, New Yorkers had battled against Covid-19, reducing the state’s infection rate from the highest in the nation to among the lowest.
In his speech on Tuesday, Cuomo said he had spoken with his three daughters, ages 26 and 23, saying that he had made mistakes, and that he had apologized for them and learned from them.
Speaking to New Yorkers, he concluded, “Thank you for the honor of serving you.”
Mallory Wilson and Scott Brinton contributed to this story.