New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sexually harassed multiple female employees and created a “hostile work environment for women,” an investigation by the New York state attorney general concluded on Tuesday morning.
“The independent investigation has concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law,” New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced in a press conference.
The investigation found that Cuomo “sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” James said Tuesday.
Cuomo denied the allegations later on Tuesday, telling reporters he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
The attorney general’s office spoke with 179 people for the investigation and reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence, including emails, texts, photos and audio files. The evidence painted a “deeply disturbing yet clear picture” that Cuomo sexually harassed female employees, many of whom were young women, James said.
The report said that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including a state trooper assigned to his protective detail, members of the public and current and former staff members. Nine women accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and inappropriate comments earlier this year.
The report noted two new accusers, one of whom was the state trooper. The trooper said Cuomo engaged in sexual misconduct on numerous occasions, including the following allegations: one time when Cuomo ran his finger down her back and said “hey you;” kissed only her on the cheek during a meeting with multiple people present, and later asked to kiss her again, which she deflected; asked her why she didn’t wear a dress; and asked her to help him find a girlfriend, telling the trooper he’s looking for someone who “can handle pain.” Several other state troopers on Cuomo’s protective detail corroborated the female trooper’s allegations.
The investigation found that Cuomo and his senior team actively retaliated against one woman who accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
“Governor Cuomo’s administration fostered a toxic workplace that enabled harassment and created a hostile work environment where staffers did not feel comfortable coming forward with complaints about sexual harassment due to a climate of fear and given the power dynamics,” James said.
Although Cuomo’s behavior violated state and federal law, James noted that the report did not reach a conclusion to whether Cuomo’s conduct amounts to criminal prosecution.
The inquiry into Cuomo’s conduct began in March, after Cuomo himself authorized the investigation ― a move many perceived as a last-ditch effort to stave off calls for his resignation. Independent investigators and attorneys Joon Kim and Anne Clark led the investigation. Kim and Clarke questioned Cuomo for 11 hours earlier this week as part of the investigation process, The New York Times reported.
Cuomo issued a half-hearted apology in March when the accusations first came out, but has since changed his tune. “I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state,” Cuomo said last week. “I think when they hear the actual facts, what happened, how the situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked. Shocked.”
During his Tuesday remarks, Cuomo suggested accusers were motivated by politics or publicity. He framed himself as a champion of women, complete with a lengthy aside on sexism faced by women managers. And he showed a slideshow of photos of himself and other politicians hugging people or kissing them on the cheek, insisting it showed his behavior has been nothing out of the ordinary.
In March, President Joe Biden said that Cuomo should resign if the sexual harassment allegations against the governor were confirmed. Biden said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference that he stands by his original statement: “I think that he should resign.”
Several New York state lawmakers have already called for Cuomo’s resignation in light of the investigation’s findings. New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said that “the Governor must resign for the good of the state.” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) urged Cuomo to resign and called for his arrest, adding that Biden must immediately call for the governor’s resignation.
“No one is above the law and today justice must be served,” Stefanik said in a Tuesday afternoon statement. “The media and Democrats smeared me and closed ranks to protect Cuomo, a shameful chapter in New York history. All of them including his staff must be held to account. These brave women deserve swift and definitive justice.”
UltraViolet, a national women’s organization, called for the governor’s resignation in March when women initially accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
“Today we are reiterating our call for Cuomo to resign and urge the Democrats who encouraged this investigation by Attorney General James’ office to demand accountability from Cuomo immediately. If Cuomo refuses to resign from office, we demand his timely removal by New York legislators,” said Bridget Todd, director of communications at UltraViolet.
“This report proves what we suspected — Andrew Cuomo is unfit to represent New York state,” Todd continued. “We implore Democrats who called for this investigation to take the results seriously. Anything less is unacceptable and a flagrant disregard for past, present and future employees and residents of New York State.”