NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned Tuesday amid accusations of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior and undercounting COVID-19 deaths connected to nursing homes.
After an investigation from the attorney general’s office determined Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women — in and out of state government — the governor was initially defiant. He appeared to reject calls to resign, but announced Tuesday he would step down so that the government could focus on COVID-19 pandemic recovery without the distraction of a lengthy impeachment trial.
“New York tough means New York loving, and I love New York and I love you,” Cuomo said. “I would never want to be unhelpful in any way, and I think given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”
The resignation will go into effect Aug. 24, at which point Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over as governor for the remainder of Cuomo’s term.
“Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless. We have a lot going on, I’m very worried about the delta variant, and so should you be, but she can come up to speed quickly,” Cuomo said.
Hochul released a statement shortly after Cuomo’s resignation, saying she agreed with the governor’s decision to step down.
“It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” Hochul said. “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor.”
Cuomo also thanked the members of his administration for making New York “the progressive capital of the nation.”
“No other state government accomplished more to help people,” Cuomo said, noting marriage equality, tough gun safety laws, raising the minimum wage, and managing every emergency “Mother Nature could throw at us.”
Embroiled in controversy and facing a state impeachment inquiry, Cuomo quickly became politically isolated amid growing calls for his resignation from state and federal lawmakers, including previous allies President Joe Biden and New York’s U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Cuomo was already facing backlash for his administration’s undercounting of pandemic-related nursing home fatalities when a former aide, Lindsey Boylan, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December 2020.
Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and comments about her appearance.
Soon after, another former employee, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo, 63, questioned her about her sex life, talked about being lonely and asked if she would be open to a sexual relationship with an older man.
Over the ensuing weeks, five more women came forward with accusations of inappropriate behavior by Cuomo. Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation determined Cuomo had harassed 11 women in total.
James on Tuesday said Cuomo’s resignation “closes a sad chapter for all of New York.”
“I thank Governor Cuomo for his contributions to our state. The ascension of our Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, will help New York enter a new day. We must continue to build on the progress already made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state. I know our state is in good hands with Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her,” James said.
The firestorm around the governor grew after the Times Union of Albany reported in March that an unidentified aide told a supervisor Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her at his official residence late last year.
The embattled politician insisted that he never touched anyone inappropriately and repeatedly said he’s sorry if he ever made anyone uncomfortable.
Yet Cuomo’s coalition of critics expanded geographically and politically, covering virtually every region in the state and the political power centers of New York City and Washington, even before the attorney general’s report was released.
The state Assembly greenlit an impeachment investigation on March 11 as lawmakers investigated whether there were grounds for Cuomo’s forcible removal from office.
Prior to the harassment accusations, the Queens-born politician faced backlash for an alleged February tirade against New York Assemblyman Ron Kim, who questioned the governor’s handling of COVID-19 in state nursing homes.
The state lawmaker called Cuomo an “abuser” in an interview with the PIX11 Morning News after Cuomo allegedly threatened to ruin Kim’s career if he did not fall in line with the governor.
Kim was among several officials who called for an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s alleged coverup of COVID-19 nursing home fatalities during the pandemic.
The governor’s resignation came more than a year after his daily televised coronavirus briefings won him local and national adoration for his handling of the pandemic.
Cuomo, who is the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, served as governor for just over 10 years, assuming office in January 2011.
His current term, his third after being re-elected in 2018, would have ended in January 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.