Report finds Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women

Report finds New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women

The findings of the report could fuel support for impeachment proceedings against Cuomo in the state Legislature

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Credit: AFP File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former government workers, and retaliated against at least one of the women for making her complaints public, according to a much anticipated report from the New York state attorney general released on Tuesday.

The 165-page report said that Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, and his aides cultivated a toxic work environment in his office that was rife with fear and intimidation, and helped enable “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”

The findings of the report could fuel support for impeachment proceedings against Cuomo in the state Legislature, which Democrats overwhelmingly control, lead to additional calls for his resignation and influence public opinion as he considers running for a fourth term. Outside lawyers hired by the Assembly’s judiciary committee are currently looking at not only the sexual harassment claims, but a series of scandals with a common theme: whether or not Cuomo abused his power while in office.

The investigation was conducted by two outside lawyers hired by Letitia James, the state attorney general: Joon H. Kim, a former top federal prosecutor, and Anne L. Clark, a well-known employment lawyer.

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Even before the report’s release on Tuesday, the damage to Cuomo has been considerable: In a span of a few weeks earlier this year, the allegations and a series of other scandals compounded into the most severe political crisis Cuomo has confronted in his 10 years in office, a steep fall for a governor once hailed a national leader during the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of his party openly turned on him, raising questions about his capacity to govern and calling on him to resign. The state Assembly launched a broad impeachment investigation to scrutinise, among other issues, the governor’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, which federal prosecutors also began to investigate. Cuomo saw his once-soaring approval ratings sink, his fundraising numbers take a hit and a list of potential challengers expand as he eyes a run for a fourth term next year.

Yet, despite the profound political backlash, Cuomo has refused to step down. Cuomo has repeatedly denied many of the claims and any deliberate wrongdoing, apologising for interactions that may have made women “feel uncomfortable.”

Also Read | Upstate woman says Cuomo forced kiss on her cheek

In late February, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official in the Cuomo administration, became the first woman to outline her claims against the governor. Boylan said Cuomo suggested they play “strip poker” on a plane while on work trip and said the governor kissed her on the lips in his Manhattan office.

A few days later, Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor made certain comments that she took as sexual overtures while they were alone in his Albany office last year. Bennett said Cuomo said he was looking for a girlfriend and asked her whether she was monogamous and had sex with older men.

In early March, a current female aide who has not been publicly identified levelled one of the most serious allegations: She said Cuomo reached under her blouse and groped one of her breasts while they were alone on the second floor of the Executive Mansion in Albany late last year. She said she had been summoned to his residence to assist Cuomo with a technical issue. Cuomo has denied the woman’s account, saying he has never touched anyone inappropriately.

The flurry of allegations, and the growing calls for his resignation, led Cuomo to authorise James to oversee an investigation led by outside lawyers into the any sexual harassment claims against him.