New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo violated federal and state law by sexually harassing multiple women and threatening retaliation against a former employee who made a public complaint about his behavior, according to a bombshell report from the state attorney general's office.
"The independent investigation has concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law," said state Attorney General Letitia James Tuesday at a press conference. "Specifically, the investigation found that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York State employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women."
The attorney general's report also found that Cuomo created an office culture "filled with fear and intimidation" that normalized his illegal behavior and "allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist."
"That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment," the report said.
The investigation began in March after Cuomo's office referred numerous "allegations of and circumstances surrounding sexual harassment claims made against the governor" to the state attorney general for review. Independent investigators Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark were appointed to lead the probe on March 8, 2021.
Beginning in December 2020, multiple women came forward with allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed them. Investigators interviewed 179 individuals including the women making the accusations, current and former members of Cuomo's office, State Troopers, other state employees, and the governor himself. More than 74,000 documents, emails, texts, and pictures were also reviewed as evidence during the investigation, the attorney general's office said in a press release.
After the allegations first became public, dozens of Democratic state lawmakers called on Cuomo to resign from office, though the governor adamantly denied the allegations and insisted he would not resign. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, authorized an impeachment probe against Cuomo in mid-March focusing on the sexual harassment claims leveled against the governor and on whether his office covered up coronavirus deaths in nursing homes during the pandemic.
Cuomo repeatedly admonished the public to wait for the report from James' office before forming an opinion on the allegations against him.
Investigators interviewed Cuomo on July 17, grilling the governor for 11 hours. According to James' office, Cuomo denied the most serious accusations with "blanket denials," at times claiming that he had a "lack of recognition as to specific incidents." The investigators found that the governor's recollection "stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants' recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the governor's conduct."
"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 in the press release. "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."
Reacting to the report, Speaker Heastie said the findings were "disturbing" and the details provided by the victims were "gut-wrenching."
"The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office," said Heastie.