Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, a survivor of sexual assault, says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the right decision in stepping down Tuesday after he was accused of sexual harassment by nearly a dozen women.
Cuomo was also facing an investigation into whether he improperly used state resources to write a book detailing his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Cuomo attracted scrutiny after his administration was accused of providing misleading information regarding COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes.
But it was a press conference last week from New York Attorney General Letitia James that tipped the scales and pushed the Governor to resign. James’ office compiled a report featuring 11 separate accusations of wrongdoing against Cuomo. After days of outcry and news of impending impeachment proceedings, Cuomo announced Tuesday he would voluntarily resign his position as Governor.
Cuomo said he did not want to be a distraction or force additional investigations, which could draw state resources away from the pandemic response and other areas.
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said.
Book praised the decision Tuesday in a written statement.
“Despite initial resistance, I am pleased that Andrew Cuomo has done the right thing and resigned from his position as Governor of New York,” Book said.
“The brave women who came forward with their experiences, despite smear campaigns and pressure to stay silent, have paved the way for others to be heard and believed. I am also thankful for the courage displayed by Attorney General Tish James who leaned into political discomfort in her quest for the truth, completing a thorough and unbiased investigation that has shone a light on an unacceptable culture of sexual harassment and abuse of power perpetrated by a man who represented himself as an outspoken champion for these issues.”
Cuomo had been a longtime fixture in Democratic politics, though he garnered increased scrutiny after a series of controversial decisions over the past year. While Cuomo earned some plaudits for his messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, he faced blowback after his decision early on in the pandemic to send sick elderly patients out of hospitals and back into nursing homes.
Cuomo said he was operating with limited information and that the government believed a hospital setting — full of other COVID-19 patients — was unsafe for those elderly patients as well. But after New York’s nursing home death rate skyrocketed, critics accused Cuomo of still underreporting the number of patients who died after contracting COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Cuomo then wrote a book hyping his leadership during the pandemic. That too landed him in hot water, after questions arose as to whether he used junior state employees to help write the book.
Then came the allegations of improper touching and inappropriate workplace conduct. Some women say he touched their breasts or buttocks without consent. Other women, including staffers working for Cuomo, accused him of questioning them about their sex lives and appearing to flirt with them while on the job.
“There is no room for this kind of behavior in government or any segment of American society,” Book said Tuesday of the allegations.
It’s unclear whether the allegations will lead to any criminal culpability, as investigators have not yet filed any charges.