AG James report finds Cuomo sexually harassed, intimidated 11 women; Biden says he should step down

Cuomo discusses New York’s comeback story.
Photo by Dean Moses

Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and fostered a toxic work environment, violating federal and state law, according to a bombshell and much-anticipated investigation by State Attorney General Letitia James released Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The five-month probe led by outside lawyers Joon Kim and Anne Clark found that Cuomo harassed 11 women including touching them without consent and making inappropriate comments.

“What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the governor of the great State of New York and those who basically did not put in place any protocols or procedures to protect these young women who believed in public service,” said James at a press conference releasing the findings. “I believe women, and I believe these 11 women.”

The women include nine who worked for the Governor or the state and two members of the public, whom he stands accused of groping and touching inappropriately, kissing, or making otherwise sexual remarks, according to the report. 

During a taped video statement released Tuesday afternoon, the governor denied the allegations but offered an apology — kind of — to one of the 11 victims, Charlotte Bennett, but defended his statements and conduct as being misinterpreted.

Biden, Pelosi say he should quit

Throughout the day following the report’s release Governor lost support from several high-ranking Democrats who had previously not called for him to step down, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden. 

“I think he should resign,” said Biden in response to a reporter’s question at an unrelated press conference Wednesday evening. 

Biden said he had not spoken with the governor that day and stopped short of calling for impeachment, leaving that decision up to New York State lawmakers. 

“I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach,” Biden said. “I’ve not read the report I don’t know the details of it, all I know is the end result.”

Inside the allegations

Many of the allegations had already appeared in the press over the past months, but the investigation also revealed previously-unreported incidents, such as a State Trooper who was assigned to Cuomo’s security detail. 

Cuomo allegedly kissed her on the cheek in front of another trooper and asked her to kiss him at another occasion, which she declined, and made numerous suggestive comments, the investigation shows. 

The governor and his team also unlawfully retaliated against his first public accuser, former Empire State Development chief of staff Lindsey Boylan, by leaking confidential files about her to the press trying to paint her in a negative light and penning an unpublished op-ed theorizing about her connections to supporters of President Donald Trump and politicians looking to unseat Cuomo. 

The abuse and retaliation were enabled in part by a toxic work environment in the Executive Chamber, according to the investigators, which fostered a culture of “secrecy, loyalty to the Governor, and fear.” 

“On the one hand, he makes all this inappropriate and creepy behavior normal and like you should not complain. On the other hand, you see people get punished and screamed at if you do anything where you disagree with him or his top aides,” said Alyssa McGrath, another one of the complainants, told investigators.

Impeachment looms?

James’s office chose not to formally charge Cuomo, saying that will be up to the State Assembly — which is conducting a separate investigation which could lead to impeachment proceedings — or the Governor’s office, prosecutors, or the public to take further action. 

“We have concluded our investigation and now our work is done,” said James. “As it relates to next steps, that’s entirely up to the Governor, the Assembly, and the public… We’re going to allow the chips to fall where they may.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D–Bronx) released a statement Tuesday saying the details were disturbing and gut-wrenching, and would make Cuomo not fit to hold office. 

“The findings contained in the report are disturbing. The details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching. Our hearts go out to all the individuals who have had to endure this horrible experience. The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office,” Heastie said. “”We will have more to say in the very near future.”

Later on Tuesday afternoon, Heastie released a statement after an Assembly conference meeting indicating that the time was clearly running out for Cuomo.

“After our conference this afternoon to discuss the Attorney General’s report concerning sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo, it is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office,” Heastie said. “Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible.”

Hochul says its ‘unacceptable’

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who would be first in line if the Governor steps down and who previously has remained staunchly loyal to Cuomo, denounced his behavior — but stopped short of calling for him to resign. 

“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The Attorney General’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward,” said Hochul in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.”

You can read the entire 168-page report by clicking here