The top Democratic lawmaker in New York called for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo Sunday amidst allegations of sexual harassment and an ongoing investigation around botched counts of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes.
New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the highest-ranking state lawmaker and most prominent state Democrat to request Cuomo quit.
“Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”
At least five women have accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior. In an article published Saturday, former policy and operations aide Ana Liss told The Wall Street Journal Cuomo touched her lower back, kissed her hand and made inappropriate comments. Another former aide, Karen Hinton, told The Washington Post that Cuomo had asked her personal questions in his hotel room and hugged her in a way that was “very long, too long, too tight, too intimate.”
On Sunday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie followed Stewart-Cousins in condemning Cuomo, but stopped just shy of calling for his resignation.
“The allegations pertaining to the Governor that have been reported in recent weeks have been deeply disturbing, and have no place whatsoever in government, the workplace or anywhere else. I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state,” Heastie said in a statement. “We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”
Earlier, two former aides and a woman who met the governor at a wedding accused Cuomo of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments.
In a press call on Sunday, Cuomo responded that it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.
Cuomo said New York lawmakers “don’t override the people’s will, they don’t get to override elections.” He added, “I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.”
He addressed Liss’ comments, saying his talk was “my way of doing friendly banter.” According to The Associated Press, Cuomo acknowledged societal norms have changed, but said he “never meant to make anyone feel any uncomfortable.” In regards to Hinton’s accusations, Cuomo said they were not true and told reporters she was a longtime political opponent of his.
Last week, Cuomo apologized for actions that may have made others uncomfortable, but denied touching anyone inappropriately. He refused to resign and called for an independent investigation to be conducted.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is now conducting that investigation.
On top of the allegations, the attorney general in January accused Cuomo’s administration of underreporting COVID-19 deaths in New York’s nursing homes and assisted living communities. The investigation reported that New York officials’ count of nursing home deaths may be half the actual number.
As a result, the Senate and Assembly voted to strip Cuomo of his emergency use powers on Friday.