HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM/AP) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reiterated her calls for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign during her visit to Horseheads on Monday. Hers is among the stunning series of defections from Democrats that left the high-profile governor fighting for his political survival, angry, and alone.
“Because of these multiple credible allegations and the fact that the governor has really lost the confidence of a lot of his governing partners, I thought it was important to call on him now to resign,” said Gillibrand while visiting Center Street Elementary.
Gillibrand, a vocal supporter of women’s rights, was also asked about the timing of her calls for the governor’s resignation compared to her 2018 comments regarding then-Sen. Al Franken, who later resigned amid his own sexual harassment allegations.
“Every one of these cases is different. I think the cases regarding Senator Franken was in the Senate, and it was eight allegations of sexual misconduct, and it was several weeks before myself and several other Senators, most of the Democratic senators, called on his resignation,” she said.
By Saturday, the three-term governor had already lost the support of almost the entire 29-member New York congressional delegation and a majority of Democrats in the state legislature after multiple allegations of sexual harassment. None of the desertions hurt more than those of New York’s two senators, Gillibrand and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York,” the Democratic senators wrote in a joint statement on Friday. “Governor Cuomo should resign.”
The escalating political crisis surrounding Cuomo has spawned an impeachment inquiry in an overwhelmingly Democratic state and threatens to cast a cloud over Pres. Joe Biden’s early days in office. Republicans have seized on the scandal to try to distract from Biden’s success in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and challenge his party’s well-established advantage with female voters.
Biden, a longtime ally of Cuomo and his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, has avoided directly addressing the controversy, although it’s becoming increasingly difficult.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday declined to say whether Biden believes Cuomo should resign. She said every woman who has come forth “deserves to have her voice heard, should be treated with respect and should be able to tell her story.”
The senators’ statement, which cited the pandemic as a reason for needing “sure and steady leadership,” came shortly after Schumer stood alongside Biden at a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating the passage of the Democrat-backed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
A defiant Cuomo earlier in the day insisted he would not step down and condemned his Democratic detractors as “reckless and dangerous.”
“I did not do what has been alleged. Period,” he said, before evoking a favorite grievance of former President Donald Trump. “People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.”
Never before has the brash, 63-year-old Democratic governor, who had been expected to run for a fourth term in 2022, been more politically isolated.
Some in Cuomo’s party had already turned against him for his administration’s move to keep secret how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19 for months, and the latest wave of defections signaled a possible tipping point.
Cuomo’s coalition of critics has expanded geographically and politically, now covering virtually every region in the state and the political power centers of New York City and Washington. Among them are New York City progressive U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the leader of the House Democratic campaign arm, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney; Buffalo-based U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins; and a group of Long Island-based state lawmakers who had been Cuomo loyalists.
“The victims of sexual assault concern me more than politics or other narrow considerations, and I believe Governor Cuomo must step aside,” Maloney said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story