Joe Biden calls on New York governor Andrew Cuomo to step down over sexual harassment report

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo "sexually harassed multiple women," including employees, the state's attorney general Letitia James found - Reuters
New York governor Andrew Cuomo "sexually harassed multiple women," including employees, the state's attorney general Letitia James found - Reuters

President Joe Biden has called on embattled New York governor Andrew Cuomo to resign in light of an explosive report that found one of the US’s most prominent Democrats sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.

Mr Cuomo is facing impeachment and possible criminal charges after an investigation by Letitia James, the state’s Attorney General, concluded on Tuesday that the three-term governor “engaged in unwelcome and non-consensual touching.”

The 165-page report said that Mr Cuomo and his aides cultivated a toxic work environment in his office that was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

“Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws,” she said. “The independent investigation found that governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James addresses a news conference - NY State Attorney General
New York State Attorney General Letitia James addresses a news conference - NY State Attorney General

Ms James said the report revealed “a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture” and “conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shine lights on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government.”

“I believe these women,” she added.

Ms James spent months intervi179 people for the report, including accusers, current and former members of the executive chamber, and state troopers, as well as state employees and others who interacted regularly with the governor.

The scandal threatens to bring down one of the country’s most powerful Democrats, who had been lauded for his handling of the pandemic and was at one point tipped to win the party’s nomination in the 2024 election.

Mr Cuomo, 63, the son of former New York governor Mario, has seen members of his own party turn against him as the claims mounted.

Answering press questions, Mr Biden replied "yes" when asked whether the senior Democrat should step down, rendering the governor's position increasingly untenable.

"I am sure there were some embraces that were totally innocent," the president said. "But apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren't."

A defiant Mr Cuomo defended his behaviour, saying it had been "misconstrued".

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in a recorded video conference. “That is just not who I am, or who I have ever been.”

He said the women “drew inferences I never made, ascribed motives I never had. They heard things that I just didn’t say.”

Lindsey Boylan accused the governor of giving her an unwanted kiss
Lindsey Boylan accused the governor of giving her an unwanted kiss

He presented a slideshow of images of him "touching and kissing people's faces" throughout his political career to apparently show he was "just a touchy-feely person".

Ms James did not make a referral to criminal prosecutors, though that would not preclude local authorities from using the evidence and findings of the report to mount their own cases.

The report is expected to play an important role in an ongoing inquiry in the state Assembly into whether there are grounds for Mr Cuomo to be impeached.

His accusers number nearly a dozen and included both current and former employees.

One of the most serious allegations made was by a current assistant of Mr Cuomo’s who has accused her boss of groping her breast in the Executive Mansion, telling her story anonymously to The Times Union of Albany earlier this year.

Former aide Lindsey Boylan, who became the first to speak out in December, alleged Mr Cuomo kissed her when the pair were alone.

The investigators confirmed earlier reports that he had his employees draft an op-ed attacking Ms Boylan’s credibility in retaliation for going public. It was ultimately never published.

Mr Cuomo is alleged to have sexually harassed Anna Ruch at an event in New York
Mr Cuomo is alleged to have sexually harassed Anna Ruch at an event in New York

The report also detailed, for the first time, allegations that Mr Cuomo sexually harassed a female state trooper on his security detail. It said that the governor ran his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back, kissed her on the cheek, asked for her help in finding a girlfriend and asked why she did not wear a dress.

"These brave women stepped forward to speak truth to power and, in doing so, they expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so," Joon Kim, one of the lawyers leading the investigation, said at the press conference on Tuesday.

Rita Glavin, a lawyer for Mr Cuomo, responded to the allegations at the time they were made, saying that “the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like ‘ciao bella.’”

“None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone.”

Mr Cuomo has denied the allegations of sexual assault, but apologised for behaviour over the years that unintentionally made women uncomfortable.

The Attorney General also concluded that Mr Cuomo's brother Chris, an anchor on CNN, inappropriately served as advisor to the governor during sexual harassment allegations.

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