He ignored calls from his state’s congressional delegation – including both U.S. senators Friday night – to resign and suggested earlier in the day that the culture should stop blaming him for political problems as he faces a growing number of sexual harassment allegations.
Politicians who don’t know any facts but still form opinions are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous, Cuomo said at a news conference Friday.
Cuomo’s decision to criticize Democratic lawmakers for abandoning him – and to embrace the political rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and some Republicans about abolishing the culture – was a risky move for an increasingly isolated Democratic governor.
His strategy for weeks was to dance on his head on a pin. After several women reported troubling encounters with him – including flirtatious remarks during meetings on official business, an unwanted kiss on the lips in the office and a conversation in which he allegedly asked a young assistant inappropriate questions about his sexual partners and his willingness to date older men – he said he had been misunderstood and was innocent of any wrongdoing, while saying the women’s allegations deserved to be heard. He said some of his comments at work might have been insensitive or too personal, and said he was genuinely sorry for those who had taken his comments as unwanted flirting.
But with lawmakers, that explanation is already outdated. He now faces a wall of opposition in his own party, and his aggressive attempts to blame others for his dangerous position may only make the situation worse.
Cuomo’s position is becoming more untenable by the day as new allegations continue to surface, including a new story Friday from a former New York Magazine reporter who wrote in an article for New York Magazine that the governor often groped her on the arms, shoulders, small of the back, waist while she was a 25-year-old reporter covering him.
He now faces two parallel investigations into allegations of women who worked in his government – an independent inquiry led by Attorney General Lettia James and an impeachment investigation launched this week by Democrats in the Assembly. At the same time, the FBI and Brooklyn prosecutors are investigating how the Cuomo administration reported Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities. James’ January report showed that these deaths may have been underestimated by as much as 50%. Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that there had been a delay in providing the data, but denied that his government had done anything wrong.
Under this converging pressure, dozens of Democratic lawmakers have called for his resignation in recent weeks, including top Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. More than a dozen Democrats in New York’s congressional delegation said Friday morning that Cuomo should resign. Later, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York added to the avalanche of bad news for the governor by issuing a joint statement praising the courageous actions of those who have made serious allegations of abuse and misconduct.
In light of the many credible allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the trust of his government partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign, Schumer and Gillibrand said, noting that confronting and overcoming Covid’s crisis requires strong, stable leadership.
Biden’s White House still refuses to call for the resignation of the three-term Democratic heavyweight. Asked whether President Joe Biden agreed with Democratic lawmakers’ calls for Cuomo’s resignation, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday – before senators spoke – that Biden believed any woman who resigned deserved to have her voice heard and that he supported an independent investigation by the attorney general. An aide told CNN that the White House had no further comment on the matter Friday night.
Earlier in the day, New York’s governor defended his leadership in a phone interview with reporters, insisting that there is no one better suited to guide New York through the budget negotiations and management of the Covid 19 vaccines.
He asked New Yorkers to be patient and said that people need to know the difference between truth and worship in order to solve the culture. This would mean that the state should take the lead in the investigation. What is alleged simply did not happen, so we must wait for the facts. I won’t do it in print. It shouldn’t be like that – it doesn’t respect anyone’s rights, he said after reporters asked about some of the allegations.
I’ve never bothered anyone. I never attacked anyone. I’ve never intimidated anyone, Cuomo said. To the extent that you get these people to talk: He took a picture with me and I felt uncomfortable, I apologized for that.
Several women described instances where Cuomo made them feel uncomfortable by touching them while standing next to them for a photo. In her new report published Friday by New York Magazine, Jessica Bakeman, who now works as a reporter for WLRN in Miami, said she was caught in one such incident at a holiday party in 2014, where Cuomo implied he wanted her to pose for a photo while she covered for him. She says Cuomo took her hand, put his arm around her waist and grabbed her tightly.
Bakeman said she wanted to leave because the meeting dragged on and she felt humiliated when Cuomo approached her in front of her colleagues and said: I’m really sorry. Are you uncomfortable with me? I thought we were solid.
He wanted me to know that I was powerless, that I was small and weak, that I did not deserve the relative power I had: a platform to hold him accountable for his words and actions, Bakeman wrote in her report. He wanted me to know that at any moment he could strip me of my dignity with an inappropriate comment or an arm around my waist.
CNN has contacted the Cuomo administration for a direct comment on the allegations.
Women have the right to speak out and be heard, Cuomo told reporters Friday. I didn’t do what they say I did, period, he said, generally denying the new allegations against him.
But the governor appears to have no patience for what he sees as a hasty condemnation by his colleagues in the New York State Legislature and Congress, and he admonished them at a news conference Friday.
New Yorkers should not trust a politician who takes a position without knowing the facts or substance, he said.
But for a politician cherished by his colleagues for his forceful and sometimes intimidating style when negotiating legislation, this was hardly the time to attack those who question his judgment, or those who support women he believes deserve to be heard.
The governor continues to call for patience and understanding, but many of his fellow elected Democrats seem to have decided his time is up.
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