Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned on Tuesday following a spate of sexual harassment allegations in a fall from grace a year after being widely praised nationally for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during the darkest days of COVID-19.
The three-term governor’s decision, which will take effect in two weeks, was heralded as a push for the legislature to remove him by impeachment. It came after the New York attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Investigators said he subjected women to unwanted kissing; groped or touched their breasts or buttocks inappropriately; makes insinuating remarks about their appearance and sex life; and created a “fearful and intimidating” work environment.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat and former congresswoman from the Buffalo area, will become the state’s 57th governor and the first woman to hold the post.
The scandal of the #MeToo era cut short not only a career but a dynasty: Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor in the 1980s and 1990s, and the young Cuomo was often mentioned as a potential candidate for president, a post his father was famous for. considered looking. Even as the scandal escalated, Cuomo was planning to run for reelection in 2022.
Cuomo still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with a number of state prosecutors traveling to investigate him.
The string of accusations that led to the governor’s downfall began playing out in news reports last December and went on for months.
Cuomo called out some of the fabricated allegations, forcefully denying that he touched anyone inappropriately. But he admitted making some assistants uncomfortable with comments he said he intended to be playful, and he apologized for some of his behavior.
He described some of the encounters as misunderstandings due to “generational or cultural” differences, a reference in part to his upbringing in a loving Italian-American family.
As a provocative Cuomo clung to his post, state lawmakers launched an impeachment inquiry, and nearly the entire Democratic establishment in New York City dropped him – not only because of the charges, but also because of the discovery that his administration had hidden thousands of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients.
The harassment investigation ordered by the Attorney General and conducted by two outside lawyers corroborated the women’s accounts and added new ones. The report’s release left the governor more isolated than ever, with some of his most loyal supporters abandoning him and President Joe Biden joining those calling for him to step down.
His accusers included an aide who said Cuomo groped his chest in the governor’s mansion. Investigators too [found] the governor’s staff retaliated against one of his accusers by disclosing confidential personal files about him.
As governor, Cuomo has presented himself as an example of a “progressive Democrat” who gets things done: Since taking office in 2011, he has helped push through legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, has started to increase the rate of marriage. minimum wage to $ 15 and expanded paid family leave benefits. He also supported major infrastructure projects, including the overhaul of the airport and the construction of a new bridge over the Hudson River which he named after his father.
As the behavior that got him into trouble continued, he publicly championed the #MeToo movement and surrounded himself with women’s rights activists, signing a law sweeping new protections against sexual harassment and extending the statute of limitations in cases of rape.
Its national popularity skyrocketed during the heartbreaking spring of 2020, when New York City became the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
His harsh but empathetic response captivated television far beyond New York, and his stern warnings for people to stay home and wear masks contrasted starkly with President Donald Trump’s elimination of the virus. His briefings won an international Emmy Award and he went on to write a book on leadership in times of crisis.
But even those achievements were quickly marred when it became known that the state’s official nursing home death tally had excluded many patients who had been transferred to hospitals before succumbing. A Cuomo aide admitted that the administration feared the real numbers were “used against us” by Trump’s White House.
Additionally, Cuomo’s administration has come under fierce criticism for forcing nursing homes to accept patients recovering from the virus.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the state’s handling of nursing home death data. In addition, the state attorney general is investigating whether Cuomo broke the law by using members of his staff to help him write and promote his book, which could earn him more than $ 5 million.
The governor was also increasingly criticized for his brutal and sometimes vindictive treatment of fellow politicians and his own staff, former collaborators telling stories of a brutal work environment.
Cuomo has been divorced since 2005 from author and activist Kerry Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family, and had a romantic relationship until 2019 with TV personality Sandra Lee. He has three grown daughters.
He gained political experience early on as his father’s ruthless and often ruthless campaign manager, and became New York’s attorney general and US housing secretary under President Bill Clinton before being elected governor in 2010.
New York has seen a series of high profile political figures fall from favor in recent years.
Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 in a call girl scandal. Rep. Anthony Weiner went to jail for sexting a 15-year-old girl. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in 2018 after four women accused him of abuse. And the two main leaders of the Legislature were found guilty of corruption.