An investigation conducted by the New York Attorney General’s Office has found that the state’s 63-year-old governor, Andrew Cuomo, sexually harassed 11 women, and in doing so, violated state and federal law.
A team of independent investigators, led by Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark, concluded that Cuomo harassed several women by groping them, kissing them without their permission, and making suggestive remarks. The women included several current and former New York state employees.
“What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the governor of the great state of New York,” said New York Attorney General Leticia James. “These 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment.”
The nearly five-month probe began in December of 2020 after several women came forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment. Investigators interviewed over 179 people, 41 of them testifying under oath including Cuomo himself.
While the investigation was civil in nature, Anne Clark said Tuesday that one allegation was forwarded to police in Albany, New York, and welcomed both state and federal prosecutors to review the report’s findings. Albany County’s District Attorney’s Office said they plan to file a formal request for investigative material used in the probe.
In a speech televised following the release of the report, Cuomo denied sexually harassing anyone, stating that the reality of the situation is “much different” than what the report suggests.
“I want you to know, directly from me, that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said. “I am 63 years old, I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”
Cuomo’s attorney released a position statement, where he went in detail to deny the allegations against his client. That statement, in full, can be read here.
Cuomo is alleged to have groped an executive assistant during hugs without her consent, rubbed her breast under her dress, and made sexually suggestive comments about her personal life. The report says Cuomo asked her if she was willing to cheat on her husband, referred to her as a “mingle mama”, and asked her to help him find a girlfriend.
The woman had initially kept the allegations to herself, however, had a change of heart when Cuomo denied allegations at a press conference on March 3rd, telling reporters he never “touched anyone inappropriately.” The woman told her story to several colleagues, who in turn reported the allegations to Executive Chamber senior staff.
Another executive assistant, Alyssa McGrath, said Cuomo also asked about her marital status, if she planned to “mingle” with men on an upcoming trip to Florida, and whether she would “tell on Executive Assistant #1 if she were to cheat on her husband.”
In conversations with an aide, Charlotte Bennett, Cuomo allegedly asked her to help him find a girlfriend, telling her he’d be willing to date a woman “as young as 22.” He later told her he was “lonely” during the pandemic and “wanted to be touched.” The alleged conversations followed ones where Bennett told Cuomo that she was a survivor of sexual assault, something that made the suggestive comments even more uncomfortable for her. She later said in an interview that the governor’s line of questioning made her believe he was “trying to sleep with” her.
“Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely,” she said.
Cuomo is also alleged to have kissed a state trooper without her permission, pressed down on a woman’s breast with his fingers at a conservation event, and asked to “play strip poker” with a woman on a plane, among other insensitive, inappropriate activity.
When Cuomo spoke to investigators, he “generally denied” touching anyone inappropriately, but said he “may” have kissed certain staff members on the lips. The governor said that tight hugs were often initiated by women and he went along with them because he didn’t “want to make anyone feel awkward about anything.”
The governor said he’s old-fashioned and sometimes uses “terms of endearment” such as “honey, darling, or sweetheart.” Cuomo suggested that both the investigation and the women accusing him of harassment were politically motivated — broad denials that investigators say don’t add up.
“The Governor’s blanket denials and lack of recollection as to specific incidents stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the Governor’s conduct,” page 8 of the report says.
President Biden, a Democrat like Cuomo, said on Tuesday that the governor should resign, but held off on directly opining on a possible impeachment or removal from office.
“I think he should resign,” Biden said, adding “I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach. I don’t know that for a fact. I have not read all that data.”
Several members of the New York State Senate have called for Cuomo’s impeachment amidst the release of the report. According to researchers, 83% of the state senate have publicly called on Cuomo to resign or be impeached.
“Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that [Cuomo] can no longer serve as Governor,” State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.