New York Governor Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, report says
NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo groped, kissed or made suggestive comments to 11 women in violation of the law, the state attorney general said on Tuesday, prompting local prosecutors to open a criminal investigation and revive calls for him to resign or be dismissed.
The findings of a five-month investigation into allegations of sexual harassment revealed that the governor had created a “toxic” workplace and that his office illegally retaliated against the first accuser to be made public.
After state attorney general Letitia James released the investigation’s findings, President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats called on the former party star to step down.
But in a video statement released after James’ briefing, Cuomo, 63, made it clear that he had no intention of doing so and denied that he had acted inappropriately.
“The facts are very different from what has been described,” Cuomo said.
A Democratic governor for a third term who has held the post since 2011, Cuomo called the findings inaccurate and unfair. He said his accusers misinterpreted his words, gestures and behavior, insisting that his behavior was always aimed at imparting warmth to women.
The inquiry marked a rapid downfall for a governor who became a popular national figure at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by presenting himself as an authoritative presence in daily press conferences.
The results, detailed in a scathing 168-page report, could deal a devastating blow to Cuomo – once seen as a potential presidential candidate and former U.S. Housing Secretary under President Bill Clinton – and hamper his administration.
“What this investigation has revealed is disturbing behavior by the governor of the great state of New York,” said James, also a Democrat. “These 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment.
Biden told reporters at the White House, “I think he should resign.”
“I’m sure there are some totally innocent hugs. But apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t,” Biden said.
The Speaker of the Democratic-controlled New York Assembly said an impeachment inquiry would be concluded “as quickly as possible” after receiving evidence of the investigation from James.
The civil investigation found that the actions of Cuomo and his senior advisers “violated several federal and state laws,” James’s office said, but she did not pursue criminal charges.
After the report was released, Albany County District Attorney David Soares announced that his office had opened an investigation to see if any conduct rose to the level of a felony. Albany County is home to the city of Albany, the capital of New York State.
Soares also asked for evidence at the inquest and called on “any victim” to come forward.
“CLIMATE OF FEAR”
Investigators spoke to 179 people, James said. The investigation revealed a “climate of fear” in which Cuomo sexually harassed several women, many of whom are young, she said.
While many charges were already known, investigators at the briefing revealed new details based on what Cuomo’s accusers told them.
Anne Clark, one of the two lawyers who led the investigation, said one of the women Cuomo targeted was a state soldier. The governor stood behind her in an elevator and “ran his finger from her neck down her spine and said,” Hi.
Cuomo, a divorced father of three adult daughters, said he was sorry if his behavior was misunderstood by his accusers. He also said he “would not be distracted” from his work to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want you to know directly from me that I have never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said in the video statement. “I’m 63. I’ve lived my entire adult life in public. It’s just not who I am. And it’s not who I have ever been.”
“SHORE WITH BULLYING”
James herself is a rising star in the Democratic Party who legally challenged the state’s National Rifle Association after catapulting herself from New York public attorney to attorney general in 2018.
She appointed two senior outside attorneys to lead the investigation: Joon Kim, a former federal prosecutor and interim U.S. prosecutor in Manhattan, and Clark, an employment lawyer with experience in sexual harassment cases.
Kim said Cuomo’s workplace was “plagued by intimidation, fear and intimidation” in which running into him or his top executives meant you would be “kicked out, rejected or worse.”
The report rejected Cuomo’s suggestions that his conduct was an innocent reflection of the loving Italian-American culture in which he was raised. Investigators found little credibility in his “blanket denials and lack of recollection of specific incidents.”
“What these witnesses – and many others – described is not just old-fashioned affectionate behavior – it was sexual harassment,” the report concludes.
Rita Glavin, an attorney defending Cuomo against sexual harassment complaints, issued a lengthy “position statement” in response to the report, which she said “deliberately omits key evidence.” Glavin accused James of bias.
Glavin’s statement included pages of photographs of Cuomo kissing or kissing prominent political figures, including Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore. It also included several photographs of Cuomo kissing his late father, Mario Cuomo, who also served as governor of New York.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Additional reports by Trevor Hunnicutt, Jan Wolfe and Maria Caspani; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Will Dunham, Jonathan Oatis, Sonya Hepinstall and Leslie Adler
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