New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned, citing a need for the state to move on from the sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed his administration in recent months.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Cuomo continued to deny many of the accusations of unwanted physical contact with women, before explaining that the situation had consumed the state’s attention while officials battled a resurgence of Covid-19.
“Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing, and I cannot be the cause of that,” said Mr Cuomo.
“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” the governor continued. “It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we’.”
His resignation will be effective in 14 days, according to the governor’s statements.
“Thank you for the honour of serving you,” Mr Cuomo told New Yorkers as he concluded his morning address without taking questions. “It has been the honour of my lifetime.”
Mr Cuomo’s resignation comes after a weekend over which it was reported that the governor remained hopeful about his chances of remaining in office while the entirety of his inner circle was pushing for him to quit. A top aide, Melissa DeRosa, left the governor’s office on Sunday night after the state’s attorney general, Letitia James’s report indicated that she spearheaded an effort to discredit the women who came forward with their experiences.
Ms James previously released a report finding that sexual harassment accusations against the governor from nearly a dozen women were credible.
“We find that the Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” the report found.
The New York governor would have likely faced an impeachment effort led by his own party had he remained in office any longer; he already was under a deadline set by lawmakers to submit any evidence that would help his case by 5pm on Friday.
Despite his claims to have not understood the changing culture around consensual contact and sexual behaviour, Mr Cuomo had signed into law new legislation strengthening workplace sexual harassment protections as recently as 2019, at the time denouncing an “ongoing, persistent culture of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination in the workplace”.
White House officials said on Tuesday that they had no advance notice of the governor’s decision, and had not yet spoken to his successor.
His lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will take office as his replacement in two weeks, becoming the first woman to hold the state’s highest office.
Ms Hochul released a statement on Tuesday shortly following the governor’s announcement that called Mr Cuomo’s decision to step down “the right thing to do”.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down,” she said. “It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers. 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.”
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