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Cuomo Sexually Harassed Women, Broke State and Federal Laws, AG James Report Concludes

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Credit: Gov. Cuomo's Office

NY AG's Report Finds Cuomo Sexually Harassed Women, Broke Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and broke state and federal laws related to that behavior, a report issued by the New York Attorney General’s Office found.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, during a press conference Tuesday, outlined the report with the attorneys hired to review those claims over the past five months.

"The independent investigation has concluded that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so, violated federal and state law," James said.

Cuomo, in a videotaped response to the report, denied the claims and said his actions were either taken out of context, misrepresented, or simply made up.

"I cooperated with the review and I can now finally share the truth," Cuomo said. "The facts are much different than what has been portrayed."

Several women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, both at the office and in public. Cuomo has denied those claims, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately.

The controversies started in December when Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official, publicly accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, but didn’t provide details at the time.

Two months later, Boylan detailed her experience with Cuomo, saying the three-term governor acted inappropriately around her, asking her if she’d like to play strip poker, and eventually kissing her in his office without her consent.

Boylan’s account prompted several other women to come forward with claims against the governor, including current and former staffers.

Charlotte Bennett, who worked in Cuomo’s office, claimed he asked her several inappropriate questions at work, including whether she was monogamous, and if she’d ever had sex with older men. Cuomo is more than twice Bennett’s age.

Cuomo responded to Bennett's claims directly in his response Tuesday, saying he asked her intimate questions because he wanted to see if she was appropriately processing her experience with sexual assault.

"I thought I could help her work through a difficult time," Cuomo said. "I did ask her questions I don't normally ask people."

"I was tying to make sure she was working her way through it the best she could. I thought I had learned enough and had enough personal experience to help her. But I was wrong."

After those two accounts, several other women began to come forward with claims against the governor, including an unnamed victim that claimed Cuomo groped her beneath her shirt at the Executive Mansion in Albany.

According to the Times Union, who exclusively spoke to the woman, she was sent to the mansion under the guise that Cuomo needed help with his phone.

The attorney general's report included evidence that the staffer was sent to the mansion that day, including an email exchange with a top member of Cuomo's staff. 

Cuomo's attorney, Rita Glavin, said in a report in response to the attorney general's findings, that, given his public image, he would never touch a woman like that without her consent.

"It would be a pure act of insanity for the Governor—who is 63 years old and lives his life under a microscope—to grab an employee’s breast in the middle of the workday at his Mansion Office," Glavin wrote. "This simply did not happen."

Other women who’ve made claims against the governor have said he kissed them without their consent, made inappropriate remarks to them, and more.

The claims prompted both the attorney general’s investigation, as well as a tearful apology from Cuomo in early March, when he addressed them head-on during a virtual press conference.

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at the time. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly, I'm embarrassed by it, and that's not easy to say but that's the truth.”

He said at the time that he’d “never touched anyone inappropriately.”

The tone of Cuomo’s attitude toward the probe changed a few months later, shifting his response from one of regret to claims that the report wouldn’t be independent.

That’s partly because of who the attorney general’s office hired to conduct the probe. James agreed to bring in a pair of attorneys from private practice to lead the investigation as a way to separate her office — and politics — from the inquiry.

One of those attorneys is Joon Kim, who worked under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — who famously led an investigation into Joseph Percoco, one of Cuomo’s top, and longest-serving, aides. Percoco was ultimately convicted.

As the investigation has progressed, Cuomo has begun to publicly question the integrity of the probe, namely because of Kim’s involvement, but also because of alleged leaks to reporters on the status of the investigation.

During a press conference in July, Cuomo said he didn’t think the investigation would be truly independent.

“I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers,” Cuomo said. “Is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable.”

On Cuomo’s part, he’s retained a team of his own attorneys to represent him as part of the investigation. It’s unclear what Cuomo’s strategy will be now that the report has been made public.

At the same time, the State Assembly is leading its own investigation into Cuomo to decide whether he should be removed from office.

That investigation includes the claims of sexual harassment made against Cuomo, but has also branched out to include inquiries into the state’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19, allegations that state employees were used to work on Cuomo’s book last year, and more.

It’s unclear if the attorney general’s report will be a catalyst for the Assembly’s investigation, prompting impeachment, or not.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement that the behavior describe in the report "would indicate someone who is not fit for office."

"We have received the Attorney General's 168 page report containing findings of sexual harassment and misconduct committed by Governor Cuomo. The findings contained in the report are disturbing. The details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching. Our hearts go out to all the individuals who have had to endure this horrible experience. The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office," Heastie said.

"The report has been forwarded to the members of the Judiciary Committee as well as all members of the Assembly. We will now undertake an in-depth examination of the report and its corresponding exhibits with our Assembly counsels as well the legal firm we have retained to assist us."

"We will have more to say in the very near future."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose chamber would hold an impeachment trial against Cuomo if the Assembly moves forward, repeated her calls for the governor to resign in her own statement.

“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," Stewart-Cousins said. 

"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.  Our highest elected offices must reflect the values and integrity that​ they profess and​ New Yorkers hold dear."

If Cuomo is impeached, or leaves office, he'll be replaced for the rest of his term by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who said in her own statement Tuesday that she wouldn't comment on the governor's next steps, but that she believed the claims made against Cuomo.

"The Attorney General’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward," Hochul said.

"No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps."

Republicans in the state Legislature, meanwhile, are calling for immediate action from the Assembly, saying they shouldn't wait to act, given the attorney general's report.

 "It is in the best interest of the people of New York state for Gov. Cuomo to immediately resign and if he refuses to do so, the Legislature should take the necessary and immediate steps to have him impeached and forcibly removed from office," said Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay.

Members of the Assembly were expected to discuss the report in a closed-door conference Tuesday afternoon.

Cuomo's Response to the Report