New York’s highest-ranking state lawmakers called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign even as he remained defiant that he wouldn’t step down.
“I am not going to resign because of allegations,” Cuomo said on a call with reporters. “There is no way I resign.”
Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, faces claims of impropriety from five women, after disclosures from two more aides were reported over the weekend by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. The governor said he’ll let state Attorney General Letitia James complete her sexual-harassment investigation and urged others to wait before passing judgment.
But hours after Cuomo’s remarks, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called on the governor to step down. The move marked a reversal by the Democrats, the most powerful members of the legislature, because they’d previously said they would wait for the investigation’s results and reserve judgment on whether Cuomo should step down until then.
“For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction.”
Heastie said in that it was “time for the governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”
In the call with reporters, Cuomo was asked about the two new allegations of impropriety by former aides to the governor that emerged over the weekend.
He repeated a statement from last week that every woman has a right to come forward, but flatly denied claims by former press aide Karen Hinton, who worked for Cuomo when he was secretary for Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration. Cuomo called her a “long-time political adversary.”
While a number of Democratic state lawmakers had called for Cuomo’s resignation, along with one Democratic member of Congress from New York, top leaders had stopped short of asking the governor to step down. They said they would wait for an investigation, echoing a similar sentiment by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
, as well as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Hakeem Jeffries.
Ana Liss, a former police and operations aide who worked for Cuomo from 2013 to 2015, said Cuomo asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception, and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk.
Cuomo, in response, told reporters he often has “friendly banter” with people in his office. “I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” he said.
“Reporters and photographers have covered the governor for 14 years, watching him kiss men and women and posing for pictures,” Cuomo adviser Rich Azzopardi said in a statement Saturday. “At the public open house mansion reception there are hundreds of people and he poses for hundreds of pictures,” he said. “That’s what people in politics do.”
The sexual-harassment allegations and calls for his resignation come as Cuomo faces a rebuke from within his own party. On Sunday the governor signed a bill from the state legislature that pulled back the emergency powers given to him at the start of the pandemic, which have allowed him to determine things like restaurant capacity and other public-health measures over the past year. Cuomo and his administration also face federal investigations into whether he covered up Covid nursing-home deaths.
While a number of Democratic state lawmakers had called for Cuomo’s resignation, along with one Democratic member of Congress from New York, the top leaders had stopped short of asking the governor to step down. They said they would wait for an investigation, echoing a similar sentiment by US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Hakeem Jeffries.
On Sunday, Cuomo cited the stance by the three senators as justification that others should also wait for the investigation to conclude to pass judgement.
“There are some legislators who suggest that I resign because of accusations that are made against me. I was elected by the people of the state, I wasn’t elected by politicians,” he said.
The decision by the state legislature’s highest-ranking officials to break ranks and ask for Cuomo to resign, along with the allegations by the additional former aides, could tip the scales further against the governor.
Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to come forward with harassment allegations in December, reacted to the two latest allegations on Twitter, saying “Resign you disgusting monster.” Boylan worked for Cuomo from 2015 to 2018 and is now running for Manhattan borough president.
Cuomo, 63, said he’s not going to let the allegations distract him from his efforts to turn around New York’s economy and finances, which has been gutted by the pandemic. He and lawmakers face an April 1 deadline to agree on a state budget.
“This is about doing the people’s business,” the governor said. “I am not going to be distracted because there is too much to do.”