New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide announced Sunday that she is resigning as his secretary, less than one week after the state’s attorney general released a report concluding that the powerful politician had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of New York for the past 10 years. New Yorkers’ resilience, strength, and optimism through the most difficult times has inspired me every day,” Melissa DeRosa wrote in a late night statement, published by NY1, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
“Personally, the past 2 years have been emotionally and mentally trying. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and committed colleagues on behalf of our state.”
DeRosa did not name Cuomo in her statement, nor did she specifically bring up the sexual harassment allegations against him.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Cuomo denied all sexual assault accusations at a press conference last week, insisting that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report on Tuesday that found the Democratic governor had violated state and federal sexual harassment laws, alleging that he inappropriately touched 11 women, most of whom currently or used to work for the state.
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 at the time of the report’s release.
DeRosa, who held the highest-ranking staff position in state government, was mentioned several times in the report. In one instance, the report stated that DeRosa helped lead efforts to retaliate against one of the women who publicly accused the third-term Democrat in December.
DeRosa’s resignation comes one day before “CBS This Morning” and The Albany Times-Union air their full joint interview with Brittany Commisso, one of Cuomo’s accusers who had previously only been identified as “Executive Assistant #1″ in the Attorney General’s report.
According to the report, Commisso accused the governor of reaching under her blouse and groping her breast while they were alone at his mansion last year. She also alleged that the governor once rubbed her rear end while they were posing together for a selfie.
In the report, Commisso testified that she was scared she would lose her job if she shared with others what had happened and it reached Cuomo’s senior staff.
″[T]he way he was so firm with [me] that I couldn’t show anyone else that photo, I was just terrified that if I shared what was going on that it would somehow get around,” she testified on the incident, according to the report. “And if Stephanie Benton or Melissa [DeRosa] heard that, I was going to lose my job. Because I knew that I certainly was going to be the one to go.”
Commisso filed a criminal complaint against Cuomo on Thursday with the Albany Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Craig Apple told The New York Post that it is possible Cuomo could be arrested if investigators or the county district attorney conclude he committed a crime.
“The governor needs to be held accountable,” Commisso told the outlets in a clip of the interview released Sunday. “What he did was a crime. He broke the law.”
Cuomo said the alleged groping encounter never happened.
Prosecutors in several New York counties have said that they want to investigate the sexual misconduct claims against Cuomo, but need the women who accused him to make a formal report.
Many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, federal New York lawmakers and former Cuomo loyalists have all urged him to resign or face an impeachment battle he likely won’t win.
About two-thirds of the New York State Assembly members have already said they want an impeachment trial should Cuomo refuse to resign, and nearly all 63 members of the state Senate have called for him to step down.
But Cuomo allies and lawyers have said the governor has made it clear that he will not go down without a long-drawn-out fight, attempting to cast doubt on multiple accusers’ timelines of events and undermine the attorney general’s report. The governor himself gave a bizarre monologue that he somehow thought was a sound defense.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.