Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns over sexual harassment allegations – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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NEW YORK – (AP) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday amid a spate of sexual harassment allegations in the Covid19 pandemic.

The 63-year-old Democrat alternately denied defiantly and soberly that he would deliberately abuse women and called the pressure to remove him politically motivated. But he said the struggle in this “too hot” political climate would subject the state to months of turmoil.

“The best way I can help now is to step aside and let the government rule again,” Cuomo said in a televised address.

The governor’s third term resignation, which will come into effect in two weeks, was heralded as momentum in the legislature to remove him by impeachment, and after almost the entire Democratic establishment turned against him, President Joe joined in Both of those who asked him to resign.

The decision came a week after the New York attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually molested at least 11 women.

Investigators said he exposed women to unwanted kisses; groped or otherwise inappropriately touched her breasts or buttocks; made suggestive remarks about her appearance and sex life; and created a “fearful and intimidated” work environment.

At the same time, Cuomo came under fire when he discovered his government had kept secret thousands of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former Congresswoman from the Buffalo area, becomes the state’s 57th governor and the first woman in office. She said Cuomo’s resignation was “the right thing and in the best interests of New Yorkers”.

The #MeToo-era scandal ended not just a career, but a dynasty: Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor in the 1980s and 90s, and the younger Cuomo was often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. While the scandal was still flaring, he planned to run for re-election in 2022.

Republicans cheered Cuomo’s departure but pushed for an impeachment that could prevent him from running for office again. “This resignation is simply an attempt to avoid real accountability,” said GOP chairman Nick Langworthy.

In the White House, Biden said, “I respect the governor’s decision.” At the same time, he said Cuomo “did a hell of a job” on infrastructure and voting rights, and “that’s why it’s so sad”.

“From the start, I simply asked the governor to stop his abusive behavior,” tweeted Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of harassment, on Tuesday through to the end. “

Cuomo is still facing criminal charges as a number of prosecutors across the state continue to investigate him. At least one of his accusers has filed a criminal complaint.

The governor began his resignation with a 45-minute defense from his attorney and his own insistence that his behavior – although sometimes insensitive, disgusting, or “too familiar” – had been used against him as a weapon in a political setting in which “Rash” has replaced reason. “

“I’m a fighter and my instinct is to fight this controversy because I really believe it’s politically motivated. I think it’s unfair and untrue, ”he said, but added that he doesn’t want“ distractions ”engulfing the state government while it grapples with the pandemic and other issues.

The line of allegations began in the news last December and dragged on for months. Cuomo called some of the allegations fabricated and denied touching anyone inappropriately. But he did admit that some aides were uncomfortable with comments he intended to be playful, and apologized for some of his behavior.

He presented some encounters as misunderstandings that could be traced back to “generational or cultural” differences, and referred to his upbringing in a loving Italian-American family.

The attorney general’s investigation confirmed the women’s accounts and added sensational new ones, adding to the pressure on Cuomo. Investigators also said the governor’s staff retaliated against Boylan by leaking confidential personnel files on her.

As governor, Cuomo described himself as a “progressive democrat” who got things done: since he took office in 2011, he helped enforce laws to legalize gay marriage, began raising the minimum wage to $ 15 and expanding paid family vacation benefits. He also supported major infrastructure projects, including a new Hudson River bridge, which he named after his father.

At the same time, he got involved in the behavior that got him into trouble, campaigned publicly for the #MeToo movement and surrounded himself with women’s rights activists. He signed a law that provided new safeguards against sexual harassment and extended the statute of limitations in rape cases.

His resignation is “evidence of the growing power of women’s voices since the #MeToo movement began,” said Debra Katz, attorney for one of his accusers, Charlotte Bennett.

Cuomo’s national popularity soared in the harrowing spring of 2020 when New York was the deadly epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak and became the main antagonist of President Donald Trump in the minds of many Americans.

Cuomo’s persistent but compassionate rhetoric made TV riveting well beyond New York as he urged people to stay home and wear masks while Trump often wiped the virus off. Cuomo’s briefings won an international Emmy Award and he wrote a book on leadership in crisis.

But those accomplishments were soon tarnished when it was found that the official nursing home death census had excluded many victims who had been hospitalized prior to their death. A Cuomo adviser admitted that the administration feared that Trump’s White House would “use the real numbers against us”.

In addition, Cuomo’s government has come under heavy criticism for forcing nursing homes to take in patients who are recovering from the virus.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the state’s handling of data on deaths in nursing homes. In addition, the attorney general is investigating whether Cuomo violated the law by using his staff to write and promote his book, which was supposed to earn him more than $ 5 million.

The governor also faced increasing criticism for his harsh and sometimes vengeful dealings with politicians and his own staff, with former staff telling stories of a brutal work environment.

Divorced from writer and activist Kerry Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family, since 2005, Cuomo was romantically linked to TV lifestyle personality Sandra Lee until 2019. He has three grown daughters and appealed to them when he resigned.

“I want you to know from the bottom of my heart: I have never deliberately disregarded a woman or treated her differently than I would have treated her,” he said. “Your father made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is about.”

Cuomo began his career in politics as his father’s hardened and often ruthless campaign manager, then served as New York attorney general and US Secretary of Housing under President Bill Clinton before being elected governor in 2010.

New York has seen a number of high-profile politicians fall out of favor in the past few years.

Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 in a prostitution scandal. Rep. Anthony Weiner went to jail for sexting a 15-year-old girl. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in 2018 after four women accused him of abuse. And the two top legislative leaders have been convicted of corruption.

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Villeneuve reported from Albany, New York. Associate press writers Jennifer Peltz in New York and Josh Boak in Washington contributed.