What to Know
- Multiple Democrats in the state legislature have called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign over new sex harassment allegations; six "socialist" legislators say they support impeachment proceedings
- The chairman of the state's Democratic Committee called on fellow Dems Tuesday to cool the rhetoric and let the AG probe proceed, but the committee's own youth arm called on Cuomo to resign
- Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and said he'd cooperate with an AG-led harassment investigation
The chorus of calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's resignation within his own party grew louder again Tuesday, a day after a third woman came forward to allege inappropriate physical behavior by New York's commander in chief. The latest allegations involved an unwanted physical advance at a 2019 wedding.
Cuomo has drawn widespread bipartisan rebuke over the harassment allegations, which compound the separate nursing home pandemic-related investigation facing his administration. Six state legislators who bill themselves as "socialist" issued a statement Tuesday supporting impeachment proceedings against him.
The statement was released on behalf of State Senator Julia Salazar, State Senator Jabari Brisport, Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. and Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes.
It read in part, "The accounts of sexual harassment from the women who have courageously come forward confirm what many in Albany have known for years:that Governor Cuomo uses his power to belittle, bully and harass his employees and colleagues. The accounts add to recent revelations of gross misconduct. It is time for the legislature to demand accountability. Impeachment proceedings are the appropriate avenue for us to pursue as legislators to hold the Governor accountable for his many abuses of power and remove him from office."
Earlier Tuesday, the NY Working Families Party, which supported Cuomo in his last three elections, said in a statement that the governor's "reign of fear, harassment and intimidation cannot continue."
"We were horrified to learn of the governor’s pattern of sexual harassment. We have been equally disturbed by the governor’s response: he did not deny any of Charlotte Bennett’s specific allegations, failed to take any personal responsibility for his actions, and instead blamed his victims," state director Sochie Nnaemeka said. "Meanwhile, New Yorkers are still waiting for the truth about the governor’s handling of nursing home deaths and his subsequent attempt to cover-up the full extent of his administration’s role ... We are calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediately because he is unfit to serve the people of New York."
The state Democratic Party released a statement, saying that Cuomo "has done and continues to do a lot of good for the people of our State," while suggesting patience for the investigation results. The chairman of the state's Democratic Committee called on fellow Democrats Tuesday to cool their rhetoric and let the state attorney general's investigation proceed, but the committee's own youth arm, New York State Young Democrats, issued a statement calling on Cuomo to resign.
A small cluster of protesters made up of several groups gathered outside Cuomo's New York City office Tuesday night, calling for his resignation in wake of the sexual harassment and nursing home scandals.
Once the celebrated national face of governing competence as President Donald Trump fumbled his administration's response to the exploding pandemic last year, Cuomo now finds himself struggling through dueling controversies that test the limits of his party's support in an early political headache of the post-Trump era.
Cuomo himself has not made a public appearance or taken questions from reporters in nearly a week, an unusually long gap for someone who had made press conferences part of his typical routine since last March. Asked by a reporter whether Cuomo should resume holding in-person events, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “I think all leaders have to answer tough questions from the media, regardless of whether it’s convenient.”
Democrats calling for Cuomo's resignation range from Congress' Rep. Kathleen Rice to a slate of state legislators, including the target of bullying allegations, Assemblyman Ron Kim, de Blasio and others.
De Blasio once again lit into Cuomo when asked, as he has been questioned every day amid the developments, about the allegations Tuesday. He stopped short of calling for his resignation outright, using an "if these allegations are true" caveat.
"These are very serious allegations against the governor, both in terms of the nursing home scandal and in terms of sexual harassment. If these allegations are true, he cannot govern. It's as simple as that," de Blasio said, echoing his sentiments made on the radio the prior evening. "If you put too much power in one person's hands, bad things happen."
The mayor reiterated a call Tuesday he first made Sunday to have Cuomo's emergency powers stripped, which would put vaccine distribution and eligibility, among other state-controlled subjects, back in the hands of local jurisdictions. Later in the day, legislators from the state Assembly and Senate struck a deal to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-linked emergency powers and return matters like lockdowns to local control.
So far, few Democrats have come to Cuomo's rescue. But they haven’t explicitly condemned him, either.
Both of New York's Democratic U.S. senators have publicly embraced the state attorney general's nascent investigation into Cuomo's behavior. Sen. Chuck Schumer would not say Tuesday if he felt Cuomo should resign after the third accuser came forward.
"The allegations that have been made by Miss Rush and Miss Boylan and Miss Bennett are serious, very troubling. These women have to be listened to," Schumer said. "I've always believed that sexual harassment is not acceptable, must not be tolerated. Now there's a investigation in the hands of a very, very capable person, the attorney general of New York state. I supported it and called for it, and now she's doing it. I know the attorney general will conduct a thorough investigation that will be totally totally independent without any interference outside interference political or otherwise."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand released a statement later Tuesday, calling Cuomo's alleged behavior "completely unacceptable," and went on to say that each allegation needs to be reviewed.
"That is why I called for the attorney general to conduct an independent investigation with subpoena power — I'm confident that it will be comprehensive and will cover all allegations against the governor in order to get the answers we need," Gillibrand's statement read in part.
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said New York’s congressional delegation in Washington has not met on the issue but “everyone is monitoring the situation closely.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday described the allegations as “deeply troubling and deeply concerning," though he did back Cuomo for his ardent pandemic-related support. Fellow Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said that the group will issue a statement regarding the allegations, and will discuss whether the group will call on Cuomo to resign.
On Monday, President Joe Biden, a longtime Cuomo ally, declined to stand behind the embattled governor.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president supports the state attorney general's probe. She noted that Biden requires people to be treated with civility and respect in his administration.
“The president's view has been consistent and clear,” Psaki said when asked about Cuomo. “Every woman coming forward should be treated with dignity and respect.”
The scrutiny of Cuomo comes at a delicate moment as Democrats work to project unity and competence in contrast to four years of near-constant scandal and norm-shattering behavior under Trump. The latest allegations against Cuomo also threaten the moral high ground Democrats have sought on issues related to gender and sexual harassment — which are top of mind to many women who abandoned Republicans in droves last fall to help fuel Biden's victory.
Republicans highlighted the relatively cautious response from some Democrats, although the GOP's criticism of Cuomo directly was somewhat muted given the long list of sexual harassment allegations against Trump.
A Trump spokesman declined to weigh in when asked Monday. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel offered a written statement seizing on Biden's unwillingness to condemn Cuomo more forcefully.
“Biden claims he is this unifying leader, but if Cuomo is not worthy of his criticism, then who is?” McDaniel said, noting that Biden last year described Cuomo as the “gold standard” for his leadership through the pandemic.
While it has yet to be seen if Cuomo will resign or stay in office, possibly even run for a fourth term as governor, the scandal may have invited potential opponents to consider the idea of taking a run at the governorship. Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, said Tuesday that he is currently "exploring a run for governor," but didn't go into details.
Cuomo was already facing criticism for his administration's undercounting of pandemic-related nursing home fatalities last week when a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December.
Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and comments about her appearance. Calls for an investigation mounted when a second former aide went public Saturday with harassment claims.
Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in Cuomo's administration until November, told The New York Times Cuomo asked questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair. Then came Anna Ruch, No. 3.
Alexa Kissinger, a White House alum and the wife of top Cuomo aide Gareth Rhodes, took to Instagram to support Ruch and say, "This pattern of behavior is completely unacceptable." Rhodes has been a fixture at Cuomo's side throughout the pandemic; the governor officiated the couple's wedding in late 2019.
Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behavior with women “may have been insensitive or too personal,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.
In a written statement, he said he had teased people about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.” (Read his full statement here.)
Cuomo, the 63-year-old son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, is in the midst of his third four-year term as the top elected official in the nation's fourth most populous state. He has been expected to seek another term next year; New York has no term limits for governors.
Cuomo's daily coronavirus briefings brought him into the living rooms of millions of voters across the country last year, but he has long been viewed more as a regional player in Democratic politics. Still, he briefly considered a presidential bid before the last election and currently serves as the chairman of the National Governors Association.
A spokesman for the National Governors Association did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. Several members of the NGA said they support the investigation, but didn’t say whether they think he should resign as chair.
“The notion that this has some larger ranging political impact beyond those who read the insider tip sheets I think is misguided,” said Cuomo pollster Jefrey Pollock.
And at least for now, Cuomo's team doesn't see any risk to his 2022 reelection.
“Anytime you have to deal with chaos, it always has the potential to impact a race,” Pollock said. “But right now, there is no race. There is nobody running against him. And in the past when there's been much excitement about challengers, each one of them has been vanquished by a large margin.”
The nursing home controversy alone weighed on Cuomo. A recent poll found his pandemic response approval rating plunged from where it stood a few months earlier; most respondents said they didn't believe he deserved a fourth term. A new national monthly Harvard-Harris poll out Tuesday that asked registered voters to rank certain politicians in terms of favorability or unfavorability showed a 22-point downswing for Cuomo last month compared with his numbers in July.
Meanwhile, James, the state attorney general, said she’s moving forward with an investigation into the allegations against Cuomo after receiving a letter from his office Monday authorizing her to take charge of the probe. The referral letter allows James to deputize an outside law firm to conduct the inquiry with full subpoena power.
When the investigation is finished, the findings will be disclosed in a public report. The attorney general's office has not said how long it expects the investigation to last.
One state lawmaker has proposed a different bill however, which would give the attorney general total control. Long Island State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat, said that through "a bizarre and illogical system" currently in place, Cuomo can still monitor the probe through a legal loophole.
"The law states the governor must counter sign any check, so the governor is involved and it's problematic," Kaminsky said.