NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and broke state and federal laws related to that behavior, a report issued by the New York Attorney General’s Office found.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, during a press conference Tuesday, outlined the report with the attorneys hired to review those claims over the past five months.
“The independent investigation has concluded that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, and in doing so, violated federal and state law.”
Several women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, both at the office and in public. Cuomo has denied those claims, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately.
The controversies started in December when Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official, publicly accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, but didn’t provide details at the time.
Two months later, Boylan detailed her experience with Cuomo, saying the three-term governor acted inappropriately around her, asking her if she’d like to play strip poker, and eventually kissing her in his office without her consent.
Boylan’s account prompted several other women to come forward with claims against the governor, including current and former staffers.
Charlotte Bennett, who worked in Cuomo’s office, claimed he asked her several inappropriate questions at work, including whether she was monogamous, and if she’d ever had sex with older men. At the time, Cuomo was more than twice Bennett’s age.
After those two accounts, several other women began to come forward with claims against the governor, including an unnamed victim that claimed Cuomo groped her beneath her shirt at the Executive Mansion in Albany.
According to the Times Union, who exclusively spoke to the woman, she was sent to the mansion under the guise that Cuomo needed help with his phone.
Other women who’ve made claims against the governor have said he kissed them without their consent, made inappropriate remarks to them, and more.
The claims prompted both the attorney general’s investigation, as well as a tearful apology from Cuomo in early March, when he addressed them head-on during a virtual press conference.
“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said at the time. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly, I’m embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say but that’s the truth.”
He said at the time that he’d “never touched anyone inappropriately.”
The tone of Cuomo’s attitude toward the probe changed a few months later, shifting his response to one of regret, to claims that the report wouldn’t be independent.
That’s partly because of who the attorney general’s office hired to conduct the probe. James agreed to bring in a pair of attorneys from private practice to lead the investigation as a way to separate her office — and politics — from the inquiry.
One of those attorneys is Joon Kim, who worked under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — who famously led an investigation into Joseph Percoco, one of Cuomo’s top, and longest-serving, aides. Percoco was ultimately convicted.
As the investigation has progressed, Cuomo has begun to question the integrity of the probe, namely because of Kim’s involvement, but also because of alleged leaks to reporters on the status of the investigation.
During a press conference in July, Cuomo said he didn’t think the investigation would be truly independent.
“I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers,” Cuomo said. “Is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable.”
On Cuomo’s part, he’s retained a team of his own attorneys to represent him as part of the investigation. It’s unclear what Cuomo’s strategy will be now that the report has been made public.
At the same time, the State Assembly is leading its own investigation into Cuomo to decide whether he should be removed from office.
That investigation includes the claims of sexual harassment made against Cuomo, but has also branched out to include inquiries into the state’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19, allegations that state employees were used to work on Cuomo’s book last year, and more.
It’s unclear if the attorney general’s report will be a catalyst for the Assembly’s investigation, prompting impeachment, or not.