Williams urges Cuomo to resign immediately

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo makes a statement in this screen grab taken from a pre-recorded video released by Office of the NY Governor, in New York, U.S., Aug. 3, 2021.
Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/Handout via REUTERS

Soon after the independent investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James — led by Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark — on Tuesday released their report into the multiple allegations of sexual harassment by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called on Cuomo to resign immediately.

“The attorney Ggeneral’s investigation confirmed today what we’ve known since the first courageous women came forward with their experiences — the governor repeatedly, with intent and without care for the pain he caused or concern for consequences, sexually harassed multiple women, violating the law and the standards which we must demand, especially of our elected officials,” said Williams.

“A thorough, independent process documented these patterns of abuse, creating a space for voices to be heard while many were trying to silence or ignore them,” he added. “I thank the women who came forward to reveal these truths and seek justice in the face of the deflections, denials, and excuses by the governor and those he empowered. There is no excuse. And there can be no denying the need for justice.

“Andrew Cuomo has acted for his entire career with abusive impunity, but his shamelessness cannot equate with immunity,” Williams continued. “He created a culture of abuse, which he has long employed to evade accountability, but the creation of that culture itself demands accountability. He cannot continue to serve as governor, and must resign immediately or be impeached expeditiously.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., who traces his roots to Jamaica, applauded Attorney General James “for overseeing this investigation with the utmost integrity and respect.

“Today, I am especially thinking of all the survivors who are in pain due to the governor’s behavior,” he said. “I hope they feel justice was partially served today, and it is now up to the State Legislature to complete.

“I hope the Assembly swiftly moves forward with impeachment proceedings if Governor Cuomo does not resign,” Richards added. “New Yorkers deserve better, and the governor should resign.”

After nearly five months, the investigators concluded that Gov. Cuomo did sexually harass multiple women — including former and current state employees — by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging, and making inappropriate comments.

“Further, the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story,” said James, adding that the Executive Chamber fostered a “toxic” workplace that enabled “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

The investigators find that Cuomo’s actions and those of the Executive Chamber violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the Executive Chamber’s own written policies.

The investigation was conducted after, on March 1, the Executive Chamber made a referral, pursuant to New York Executive Law Section 63(8), for James to select independent lawyers to investigate “allegations of and circumstances surrounding sexual harassment claims made against the governor.”

Kim and Clark were chosen to lead the investigation on March 8.

“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” James said. “I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”

Starting in December 2020, multiple women came forward with allegations that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed them.

Over the course of the investigation, James said the investigators interviewed 179 individuals.

She said those interviewed included complainants, current and former members of the Executive Chamber, State troopers, additional state employees, and others who interacted regularly with the governor.

The New York Attorney General said more than 74,000 documents, emails, texts and pictures were also reviewed as evidence during the investigation.

Backed up by corroborating evidence and credible witnesses, James said the investigators detail multiple current or former New York state employees or women outside state service who were the targets of harassing conduct on the part of the governor.

As part of the investigation, James said Cuomo also sat with the interviewers and answered questions under oath.

While the governor denied the most serious allegations, James said the investigators found that he did so by offering “blanket denials” or that he had a “lack of recollection as to specific incidents.”

The investigators also found that the governor’s recollection “stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the governor’s conduct.”

Additionally, James said the investigators found that the Executive Chamber was “rife with fear and intimidation” that not only “enabled the above-described instances of harassment to occur,” but also “created a hostile work environment overall.”

“Further, Gov. Cuomo, himself, and the Executive Chamber engaged in ‘retaliatory’ behavior by ‘intend[ing] to discredit and disparage’ a former employee that came forward with her story of harassment,” James said.

She said the investigation found that Cuomo’s sexual harassment of multiple women and his and the Executive Chamber’s retaliation against a former employee for coming forward with her claims of sexual harassment violated multiple state and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law, and 42 US Code § 1983, in addition to the Executive Chamber’s own equal employment policies.

But Cuomo vehemently dismissed the report’s finding, reiterating his contention that he had never touched anyone inappropriately, stating “the facts are much different from what has been portrayed.”

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in a prerecorded message on Tuesday. “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”

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