ALBANY, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — An investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that he sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees, state Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
The nearly five-month investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”
On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo and his senior staff worked to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing. Cuomo was also found to have harassed women outside government, the investigation found.
“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” said James. “I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”
Investigators spoke to 179 people over the investigation, including complainants and current and former members of the executive chamber, James said. The team also reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence, including documents, emails, text messages, audio files and pictures.
She said the investigation resulted in a “deeply disturbing yet clear picture” of what she called a “toxic workplace” and a “climate of fear” in which Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of them young, “by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging and by making inappropriate comments.”
President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of New York’s Senators and several House of Representatives members have all called for Cuomo to resign or even be arrested since the report’s release.
“I am sure there were some embraces that were totally innocent. But apparently, the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t,” Biden said.
Cuomo remained defiant Tuesday following the investigation’s findings and continued to deny the allegations, saying “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
Cuomo denied the accusations of a toxic workplace and the findings of the Attorney General’s report. Cuomo’s lawyer released a response just hours after the probe.
“The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said.
The 63-year-old third-term governor faced multiple allegations last winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events. One aide in his office said he groped her breast.
Another, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”
Other aides have said that the Democratic governor asked them unwelcome personal questions about sex and dating. One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she was open to sex with an older man.
New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who briefly worked for the governor, spoke with NewsNation affiliate WPIX, about her experience with the administration, calling it “a very dark moment in my life.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, faced bipartisan calls to resign over accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct from at least eight women and disclosures that his administration under-reported nursing home deaths from the pandemic.
The claims led to a chorus of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats demanding his resignation, including both of New York’s U.S. senators back in the spring. More than 130 state lawmakers said Cuomo should resign, including state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released a joint statement Tuesday which read in part, “no elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign.”
Cuomo’s position on the allegations hardened into one of defiance. Cuomo always denied touching anyone inappropriately, but he initially said he was sorry if his behavior with women was “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.” In recent months, he’s taken a more combative tack, saying he did nothing wrong and questioning the motives of accusers and critics.
New York state regulations say sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature — from unwanted flirtation to sexual jokes — that creates an offensive work environment, regardless of a perpetrator’s intent.
The attorney general’s report is expected to play an important role in an ongoing inquiry in the state Assembly into whether there are grounds for Cuomo to be impeached.
The Assembly hired its own legal team to investigate Cuomo’s conduct, plus other allegations of wrongdoing. The legislature is looking into the help Cuomo got from senior aides to write a book about the pandemic, special access that Cuomo relatives got to COVID-19 testing last year and the administration’s decision to withhold some data on nursing home deaths from the public for several months.
In the hours leading into James’ announcement, Cuomo’s office issued numerous press releases including the completion of mixed-use housing in Buffalo plans to build a new $3.9 billion terminal at Kennedy Airport and JetBlue’s decision to keep its headquarters in New York. As James was speaking, Cuomo’s publicists sent out a release about reclaiming the sites of old power plants.
You can read the full probe below:
You can read Cuomo’s attorney’s response to the probe below:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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