Cuomo violated federal, state laws as he sexually harassed multiple women, NY attorney general says

Key Points
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women who worked for the state and elsewhere, according to a report by state Attorney General Letitia James.
  • The investigation concluded that Cuomo "violated federal and state law," James said at a press conference.
  • Cuomo then retaliated against a former employee who complained publicly about his conduct, James' report says.
  • The probe into numerous women's allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo began in March, after the state's executive chamber granted James' request to investigate.
N.Y. AG James: Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women and then retaliated against a former employee who complained publicly about his conduct, according to a bombshell report released Tuesday by state Attorney General Letitia James.

The monthslong probe concluded that Cuomo "sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law," James said at a press conference. Her office noted, however, that there were no specific penalties tied to the report.

The 165-page report, which comprises interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of tens of thousands of documents, also said that Cuomo's office was riddled with fear and intimidation and was a hostile work environment for many staffers.

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo responds to charges he harassed multiple women, created toxic work environment

Cuomo harassed members of his own staff, members of the public and other state employees, one of whom was a state trooper on his protective detail, the report alleges. He engaged in nonconsensual touching, groping, kissing and hugging, and made inappropriate comments toward numerous women, according to the report.

It also concluded that the governor's denials "lack credibility" and were "inconsistent with the weight of the evidence" gathered throughout the probe.

A somber but defiant Cuomo strongly denied some of the allegations against him later Tuesday and said that other examples of his alleged misconduct had been mischaracterized or misinterpreted.

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The findings reveal "a deeply disturbing, yet clear, picture," James said, describing Cuomo's office as "a toxic workplace."

The announcement came about two weeks after Cuomo was interviewed by investigators retained by James' office for the probe. Cuomo was reportedly questioned for 11 hours.

Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins reiterated her prior calls for Cuomo to resign. "It should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor," she said in a statement.

Mariann Wang, a lawyer for two accusers, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, said in a statement, "Cuomo's misogyny and abuse cannot be denied."

"He has been doing this for years, without any repercussions. He should not be in charge of our government and should not be in any position of power over anyone else," Wang's statement said. 

Debra Katz, an attorney for former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, echoed Wang, saying Cuomo and other complicit staff "must resign immediately."

"If he does not, the New York State Assembly must accept the Attorney General's findings and begin taking the appropriate steps to remove him from office," Katz said in a statement.

The probe into numerous women's allegations of sexual harassment by Cuomo began in March, after the state's executive chamber granted James' request to investigate.

Later that same month, dozens of Democratic state lawmakers — including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom Cuomo has long had a fraught relationship — urged the governor to resign.

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, in mid-March authorized a panel to launch an impeachment investigation into the harassment claims and other allegations of wrongdoing by Cuomo, including whether his staff tried to hide or alter data on coronavirus deaths in New York nursing homes.

Heastie on Tuesday afternoon said, "it is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office."

"Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible," Heastie said in a statement.

Cuomo has defended himself against all the allegations and has repeatedly rebuffed calls for his resignation, though he has apologized for making some women feel uncomfortable.

"I never harassed anyone, I never assaulted anyone, I never abused anyone," Cuomo said in March. "I'm not going to resign."

In a video statement shared later Tuesday after the report came out, Cuomo said "the facts are much different than what has been portrayed."

"I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances," Cuomo said. "I am 63 years old. I've lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am."

Cuomo told her he was lonely, and wanted to be touched: Attorney Anne Clark

Cuomo said that some of his behaviors included in the report, such as cupping a woman's face in his hands in an embrace, were only ever meant to convey warmth. "I am the same person in public as I am in private," he said.

But "I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that frankly I hadn't fully appreciated, and I have learned from this," Cuomo added. He said he had brought in an expert to design a new sexual harassment policy and procedures, and that the whole team, himself included, would be retrained.

Cuomo also asserted that "politics and bias are interwoven throughout every aspect of this investigation."

"One would be naive to think otherwise, and New Yorkers are not naive," he said.

President Joe Biden has previously said that Cuomo should resign if the allegations against him are confirmed by the investigation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing later Tuesday said the message from the White House to Cuomo's accusers is that all women who have "lived through this type of experience" deserve to "be treated with respect and dignity."

"I don't know that anyone could have watched [James' press conference] this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent— I know I certainly did," Psaki said.

Cuomo still had the backing of multiple New York business leaders going into the release of the report. His reelection campaign raised over $2 million on the backs of the executives, including big donations from real estate executive Stephen Ross and Laurance Rockefeller Jr., a member of the ultrawealthy Rockefeller family.

It's unclear if those executives will still support him going forward.

New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, listens to independent investigators Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark (not pictured) during a news conference regarding a probe that found New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, in New York, August 3, 2021.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Cuomo has previously suggested that the probe was not being conducted in an independent manner, and members of his staff have noted that James could be a potential future gubernatorial candidate in New York.

James at the presser said she was offended by the efforts to undercut and discredit the investigation.

"I believe women. And I believe all of these 11 women," James said.

The report reveals that Cuomo's younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, was interviewed by investigators.

"During his testimony, Chris Cuomo explained that there was discussion about remedial measures the [Executive] Chamber should take in light of the sexual harassment allegations, but some people had taken the position that 'they should just wait,'" the report says.

The report also says, "According to internal documents and communications obtained during the investigation, it appears that the Governor's advisors, including Mr. Pollock and Chris Cuomo, counseled him to express contrition after the press published Ms. Bennett's allegations."

The document also details calls to Democratic county executives made by New York's Covid-19 vaccine czar, Larry Schwartz, gauging whether they thought the governor should resign. The calls were made at the request of top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, according to the report.

— CNBC's Brian Schwartz and Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.