New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday rebuffed fresh calls for his resignation from Democratic lawmakers in Congress despite mounting allegations of sexual harassment and assault made against him.
"Women have a right to come forward and be heard," Cuomo said. "But there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period."
His comments came hours after 10 members of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerry Nadler, called on him to step down.
Cuomo criticized the lawmakers for “playing politics and bowing to cancel culture.”
“Politicians who don't know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and then an option are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous,” he said. “The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance. That, my friends, is politics at its worst.
“I never harassed anyone. I never abused anyone. I never assaulted anyone,” the governor added. “Now is it possible that I have taken a photo with someone who after the fact says they were uncomfortable with the pose and the picture? Yes. And that's what you're hearing about. Now I have taken thousands of pictures. I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I never meant to make anyone feel awkward.”
Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by at least six women, with the first of the claims being made in late February. The most recent, according to the Albany Times-Union, involves an aide whose said Cuomo groped her at the governor’s mansion in Albany last year. Cuomo denied the charge while calling the details of the allegation “gut-wrenching.” That story has served as the tipping point for a number of Democratic politicians.
During the conference call, the governor was repeatedly asked if he had ever engaged in a romantic relationship with any of the women. He did not directly answer. Afterwards, Yahoo News reached out to the governor's office to ask if he had ever engaged in a romantic relationship with any member of his staff. A spokesperson emailed back a terse response from the governor himself.
"No," Cuomo said.
A majority of state legislators have also now called for the governor to resign, after 59 Democratic Assembly members and senators issued a statement on Thursday saying the evidence had become insurmountable.
“In light of the Governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths, he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” a letter from the legislators said. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.” The New York State Assembly, which has the power to impeach Cuomo, authorized its Judiciary Committee to begin a formal investigation into the governor, with subpoena power.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime rival of the governor, has also urged him to resign, saying Thursday, "The specific allegation that the governor called an employee of his, someone who he had power over, called them to a private place and then sexually assaulted her, it's absolutely unacceptable.”
Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately and asked New Yorkers to wait for the independent investigation from the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Cuomo apologized at a press conference last week and said he would not resign.
“I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable, and I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain,” Cuomo said. “That is the last thing I would ever want to do.”
“I do not believe I have ever done anything in my public career that I am ashamed of,” he added.
In addition to the sexual harassment investigations, Cuomo is also under scrutiny for his handling of assisted-living facilities during the pandemic, including accusations the state hid deaths.
It’s been a dramatic fall from grace for the governor, who was lauded for his COVID-19 briefings last spring, winning an Emmy and publishing a book in October titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo was first elected governor in 2010. Prior to holding his current position, he served as the state’s attorney general and as secretary of housing and urban development under President Bill Clinton. Cuomo’s father, Mario, was also a three-term governor of New York. His brother, Chris, is a CNN anchor.
"This week, the second sexual assault allegation and the sixth harassment allegation was leveled against Governor Cuomo,” Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman said in a joint statement. “The fact that this latest report was so recent is alarming, and it raises concerns about the present safety and well-being of the administration's staff. These allegations have all been consistent and highly detailed, and there are also credible media reports substantiating their accounts.
“Unfortunately, the Governor is not only facing the accusation that he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment and assault,” their statement continued. “There is also the extensive report from the Attorney General that found the Cuomo administration hid data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths from both the public and the state legislature.
They added: “We believe these women, we believe the reporting, we believe the Attorney General, and we believe the fifty-five members of the New York State legislature."
Nadler, who has served in Congress for nearly three decades and chairs the House Judiciary Committee, also released a statement calling for Cuomo’s resignation.
“Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York,” Nadler’s statement read.
Hunter Walker contributed reporting to this story.
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