Cuomo Rejects Growing Calls to Resign Now Joined by Schumer
(Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected calls to step down in the wake of sexual assault and harassment claims, even as scores of state legislators and top Democrats called on him to leave office.
“I’m not going to resign,” he said during a call with reporters on Friday. “I was not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people.”
Most of the Democrats who represent New York in the U.S. House called on him to resign Friday. The state’s two U.S. senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, joined them by day’s end.
“Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York,” the senators said. Earlier, Schumer had called the latest allegations “nauseating.”
And in a joint statement Saturday, the borough presidents of Manhattan and Queens -- Gale Brewer and Donovan Richards -- also called for Cuomo’s resignation and said the government can’t work effectively amid, nor should it try to work around, such a “serious situation.”
In a telephone news conference Friday, Cuomo again urged New Yorkers to wait for the facts from two investigations that are underway and said a detailed account of an aide that claims he groped her and put his hands up her shirt were untrue.
“What is being alleged just didn’t happen,” he said. “I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone. I never abused anyone. Nor would I.”
Six women have accused him of harassment or other sexual misconduct and the state legislature has launched an impeachment inquiry that could lead to his removal.
The governor’s comments came during a regular virus briefing with reporters, in which Cuomo spent 10 minutes talking about state Covid rates, vaccines, and the state budget, charging ahead with a business-as-usual approach. He cited previous investigations that he has been party to while governing, saying that his administration can “walk and chew gum.”
Cuomo declined to comment when asked at what point he would decide to step down or whether he had had any consensual relationships with staffers.
“I’m going to focus on my job, because we have real challenges,” he said. “To the people who say avoid distractions, I’m going to avoid distractions. I have to get a budget done. Get vaccinations done, I have to rebuild the state,” he said.
His comments were in reference to State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins who called Cuomo’s mounting scandals a “distraction” to governing last Sunday.
Pressure has been building on Cuomo as the six women accused him of sexual assault or harassment and allegations emerged that his administration covered up Covid nursing home deaths. On Thursday, members of the state Assembly initiated a impeachment investigation into the misconduct claims that could lead to his removal, a move Cuomo said on Friday that he welcomed.
“Let’s get the review and the facts and then New Yorkers can make a decision,” he said.
On Friday, New York Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler and a majority of Democratic U.S. House members from New York, including recently elected progressives as well as veteran establishment figures in the party, called for him to step down.
“As members of the New York delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, we believe these women, we believe the reporting, we believe the attorney general, and we believe the 55 members of the New York State legislature, including the State Senate Majority Leader, who have concluded that Governor Cuomo can no longer effectively lead in the face of so many challenges,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a joint statement with fellow progressive Representative Jamaal Bowman.
Nadler, one of the most senior members of the New York delegation, said in a statement that he supported the women who’ve made accusations against Cuomo. “The repeated allegations against the governor, and the manner in which he has responded to them, have made it impossible for him to continue to govern at this point,” Nadler said.
State Attorney General Letitia James has appointed an outside attorney to investigate the claims made against Cuomo.
Earlier this month, 55% of New York voters said they didn’t think he should resign as governor, according to a March 2 poll by Quinnipiac University. But that was before the most recent allegations emerged by a sixth woman, an aide who claimed he groped her.
Allegations of touching one of his employees seemed to cross a line among lawmakers who had previously advocated for holding off on a resignation and waiting on an investigation to play out.
“It is impacting the ability to govern at this point, and it just, it crossed a line. This is a new level of allegation,” said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, an Albany Democrat who had previously signed a letter urging others to wait for the findings of an investigation. She said Cuomo should “step aside and let our well-respected Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul step in while these investigations are underway.”
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