A defiant Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will resign in 14 days in the wake of Attorney General Letitia James’ scathing report that accused Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women.
The resignation of the 63-year-old Democrat will make Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat, the state’s chief executive and the first female governor in the state’s history.
"Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let the government get back to governing," Cuomo said during a 30-minute farewell speech in which he apologized but insisted he never intended to disrespect the women who have accused him of sexual harassment.
Hochul, in an emailed statement, said she was prepared to step up.
"I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers," Hochul wrote. "As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor."
Cuomo, who in the late winter vowed there would be "no way" he would quit his job, served in office more than 10 years. Last week, he said he was staying on the job – in the face of an explosive set of sexual harassment findings against him by James – because there was much important work to be done before his third term was to expire at the end of 2022.
But the weight of the allegations combined with the loss of virtually any political support was too much for Cuomo to survive in office.
"Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that," he said today. "New York tough means New York loving. And I love New York. And I love you and everything I have ever done has been motivated by that love. And I would never want to be unhelpful in any way."
Despite apologizing for his actions, he pushed back against accusations that he had groped a woman who intended to make any feel uncomfortable.
He specifically mentioned the trooper whose allegations were outlined in the report, saying he had asked for her to be transferred to his protection detail because he wanted it to be more diverse and that he doesn’t remember touching her. He said he touches all of the troopers in his detail, whether male or female, and that it’s meant to be friendly.
He grew emotional as he talked about watching the news coverage of the allegations with his three daughters, twins who are 26 and one who is 23.
"I have lived this experience with him through them. I have sat on the couch with them, hearing the ugly accusations for weeks. I’ve seen the look in their eyes, and the expression on their faces. And it hurt," Cuomo said.
"I want my three jewels to know this. My greatest goal is for them to have a better future than the generations of women before them…. I want to make sure that society allows them to fly as high as their wings will carry them. There should be no assumptions, no stereotypes no limitations."
His resignation followed a virtual briefing by his personal attorney, Rita M. Glavin, who blasted James’ report, accusing investigators of being biased and the press for seizing on the allegations unfairly.
"The last eight days has been a pile-on," Glavin said.
"This hasn’t been and will not be a fair process," she said.
Cuomo ended his statement asking New Yorkers to remember what they have gone through since Covid hit last March, when he was lionized for his leadership. He credited the state’s residents for their response to the pandemic.
"Trailers carried the bodies of our fallen brothers and sisters, but you refused to give up, and you fought back. And you went from going from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest. And that was powerful in its effect. It was beautiful to see. And it was an honor to lead," Cuomo said.
He implored: "Please remember that lesson. Hold it dear, and hold it up high for this nation to see, because it is New York State at her finest."
He concluded: "Thank you for the honor of serving you. It has been the honor of my lifetime. God bless you."