Investigation finds Cuomo sexually harassed several women, violated laws
An investigation found that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sexually harassed several women, including some who worked in his office, and violated state and federal laws, state Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced Tuesday.
The independent inquiry launched by James also found Cuomo and his aides retaliated against a former employee who came forward with allegations.
“The independent investigation has concluded that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James said at a press conference.
“Specifically, the investigation found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York state employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” she added.
The bombshell report that accompanied James’s press conference marks the culmination of a months-long investigation conducted by Anne Clark and Joon Kim, two attorneys deputized by James’s office in March to run the independent inquiry.
The attorney general launched the investigation after several women came forward alleging sexual misconduct by Cuomo, including groping, unwanted kissing and inappropriate comments in the workplace.
James said Clark and Kim spoke with 179 people as part of the probe, including 11 complainants, current and former members of the executive chamber and more. The attorneys also reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence including documents, emails, texts, audio files and pictures, James said.
“These interviews and pieces of evidence reveal a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws. The independent investigation found that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments,” said James.
“Further, the governor and his senior team took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story, her truth,” she added.
The report details a slew of instances in which Cuomo engaged in inappropriate touching and made remarks that made those around him feel uncomfortable.
Clark announced that Cuomo subjected one woman, identified as “executive assistant #1,” to “repeated physical violations,” including hugging her and reaching under her blouse to grab her breast. He also grabbed her behind.
Cuomo’s actions were not confined solely to those who worked directly for him. Prosecutors also found that he harassed a state trooper assigned to his protective detail, including one instance in which he ran his finger from her neck down her spine and remarked, “hey you.”
Other inappropriate remarks included asking women if they would cheat on their partners and their opinions on monogamy.
Cuomo has refused to resign amid mounting calls from state lawmakers and his accusers for him to step down.
In a defiant speech after the report’s release Tuesday, he said he never harassed anyone and refused to step down.
“First, I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. 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,” he said.
Still, calls for his resignation or removal flooded in after the report’s findings were released.
In her public remarks, James cast the violations as a pattern and praised the women who came forward with their claims.
“This investigation has revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government,” she said. “But none of this, none of this would have been illuminated if not for the heroic women who came forward. And I am inspired by all the brave women who came forward, but more importantly, I believe them, and I thank them for their bravery.”
The report goes on to accuse Cuomo of retaliating against Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who was the first to publicly accuse Cuomo of misconduct that included kissing her without her consent and making inappropriate remarks during her time in his office.
Investigators said the retaliation, which included “leaking to the press confidential records relating to an internal investigation into Ms. Boylan on unrelated issues” and disseminating disparaging information from Cuomo to those outside his office “sent a chilling message to other would be complainants.”
The attorneys also found that Cuomo’s office mishandled claims against the governor in violation of its own harassment policy.
The report details the executive chamber’s response to allegations brought by Charlotte Bennett, a staffer who detailed allegations she said made her so uncomfortable she did not want to interact with Cuomo.
Clark said at the press conference that staffers found Bennett’s claims to be credible and moved her but decided they “did not need to report this to the governor’s office of employee relations (GOER) or conduct any meaningful investigation.”
“That response, we find, was a violation of the executive chamber’s harassment policy, which clearly requires that all possible harassment be reported to GOER and investigation,” Clark said.
James’s office did not announce any charges, but the state attorney general said the women would be able to file civil suits against Cuomo and that their claims could be reviewed by local police departments.
“We have issued a report and all throughout the process we put our heads down, we’ve done our job. And at this point … we’re going to allow the chips to fall where they may,” James said.
The state legislature is also conducting an impeachment investigation into the governor’s conduct.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The governor has previously denied any wrongdoing but has apologized for making any woman feel uncomfortable and said his actions should not be considered sexual harassment.
“The Governor must resign immediately, along with his senior staff who protected and enabled him in violation of NY State law, to the detriment of the women he harassed. If he does not, the New York State Assembly must accept the Attorney General’s findings and begin taking the appropriate steps to remove him from office,” said Debra Katz, Bennett’s attorney.
“This report highlights unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration. As I said when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) added in a statement Tuesday. “Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor.”
The three-term governor has signaled he intends to run for a fourth term, though it is unclear how the latest findings will affect his political viability.
James’s report is likely to create an opening for a serious primary challenger, and Republicans are already seizing on the findings, with Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican, calling for Cuomo’s arrest.
“No one is above the law and today justice must be served. Governor Cuomo must resign and be arrested immediately,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Updated at 1:47 p.m.