New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned overnight after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment were released last week.
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo announced in a recorded speech. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do. Because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.”
He apologised to the women he had “truly offended”.
“I deeply, deeply apologise,” Cuomo said. “I take full responsibility for my actions.” However, he still believes the investigation was “politically motivated”.
“I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I’m a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated, I believe it is unfair and it is untruthful and I believe it demonises behaviour that is unsustainable for society,” he said.
“New York tough means New York loving, and I love New York, and I love you. I would never want to be unhelpful in any way.”
“This situation, by its current trajectory, will generate months of political and legal controversy. That is what is going to happen. That is how the political wind is blowing. It will consume government. It will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Addressing the allegations into his harassment, he admitted he had “been too familiar with people” and that his sense of humour can at times border on “insensitive and off-putting”.
Responding to the allegations he had inappropriately touched women, Cuomo said he offered hugs and kisses to both men and women.
“I have done it all my life. It’s who I have been since I can remember,” he said.
“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realise the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just did not fully appreciate. And I should have. No excuses.”
“I thought a hug and putting my arm around a staff person while taking a picture was friendly, but she found it to be too forward. I kissed a woman on the cheek at a wedding and I thought I was being nice, but she felt it was too aggressive. I have slipped and called people ‘honey’, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’. I meant it to be endearing.”
Cuomo will leave office on August 24. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will step into the role on the same day, becoming New York’s first female governor.
“Kathy Hochul, my Lieutenant Governor, is smart and competent,” Cuomo said in his speech. “This transition must be seamless; we have a lot going on. I’m very worried about the Delta variant. But she can come up to speed quickly, and my resignation will be effective in 14 days.”
Hochul said she agreed with Cuomo’s decision to step down.
“It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” she said in a statement. “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York state’s 57th governor.”
Hochul came out last week to respond to the investigation report, saying she believed the women who accused Cuomo and called his behaviour “repulsive” and “unlawful.”
On Twitter, she stopped short of calling for Cuomo’s resignation, explaining that “Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment.”
At Tuesday’s White House media briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki remarked on Cuomo’s resignation, calling it the outcome the president was hoping for.
“This is a story about these courageous women who came forward, told their stories, shared their stories,” Psaki said.
She announced the president had “no plans” to speak to the exiting Governor.
MeToo activist and founder, Tarana Burke, believes Cuomo’s apology was inadequate.
“This ‘generational difference’ and ‘rules have changed’ nonsense is wrong,” she wrote on Twitter. “The rules have not changed. It was wrong 50 years ago and today. The difference is there were few paths to accountability years ago.”
“The attention to sexual violence has changed. The rule of ‘keep your hands to yourself’ is universal. We all learned that in kindergarten. Nothing is new here. Women didn’t just start fighting back and speaking up. We just finally found a frequency that folks can hear us more clearly on.”
Mariann Wang, the lawyer representing Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, two women harassed by Cuomo, released a statement after his resignation, saying her clients feel “…both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone.”
“His efforts, through his paid attorney over the last few days, to gaslight and attack the brave women who came forward apparently served no purpose.”
Meanwhile, Joe Biden made some controversial remarks at a media conference when he praised the Governor as having done “a hell of a job” during his time in office.
“I respect the Governor’s decision,” Biden said during the event.
Senior White House reporter for CBS News, Ed O’Keefe asked Biden: “How would you assess [Cuomo]’s ten-and-a-half years as governor?”
“Well, he’s done a hell of a job,” Biden said. “On everything from access to voting to infrastructure, to a whole range of things. That’s why it’s so sad.”
CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins hit back at the president, saying “Can you really say that he’s done ‘a hell of a job’ if he’s accused of sexually harassing women?”
“You asked two different questions,” Biden replied. ” Should he remain as Governor is one question. And women should be believed when they make accusations that are able to, on the face of them, make sense, and investigated.”
“That’s one thing. The question is, did he do a good job on infrastructure. That was the question. He did.”