President Biden to Embattled Cuomo – “I Think He Should Resign” - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, September 28, 2023

President Biden to Embattled Cuomo – “I Think He Should Resign”

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An investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that he sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees, state Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.

The investigation, conducted by two outside lawyers, found that the Cuomo administration was a “hostile work environment” and that it was “rife with fear and intimidation.”

“Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws,” James said at the Tuesday morning press conference.  “The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.”

The New York Times reported that James said the report revealed “a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture” and “conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government.”

The 165-page report was a product of a months long probe by investigators for New York state Attorney General Letitia James’ office, and included interviews with 179 witnesses and a review of tens of thousands of documents, according to a CNBC report.

The investigation was conducted by two outside lawyers hired by Ms. James: Joon H. Kim, a former top federal prosecutor, and Anne L. Clark, a well-known employment lawyer, as was reported by the NYT.

On Tuesday, Kim said their investigation revealed “a pattern” of behavior from Cuomo and found that the culture within the executive chamber “contributed to conditions that allowed the governor’s sexually harassing conduct to occur and to persist.”

“It was a culture where you could not say no to the governor and if you upset him or his senior staff you would be written off, cast aside or worse,” Kim said, according to the Times report. “But at the same time the witnesses described a culture that normalized and overlooked everyday flirtations, physical intimacy and inappropriate comments by the governor.”

The NYT reported that attorney Clark said that the governor’s conduct detailed in the report “clearly meets, and far exceeds” the legal standard used to determine gender-based harassment in the workplace.

“Women also described to us having the governor seek them out, stare intently at them, look them up and down or gaze at their chest or butt,” she said, according to the New York Times report. “The governor routinely interacted with women in ways that focused on their gender, sometimes in explicitly sexualized manner in ways that women found deeply humiliating and offensive.”

On at least one occasion, the investigation found, Cuomo and his senior staff worked to retaliate against a former employee who accused him of wrongdoing. Cuomo was also found to have harassed women outside of government, the investigation found.

Cuomo faced multiple allegations last winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events. One aide in his office said he groped her breast.

Another, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo kissed her on the lips after a meeting in his office and “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”

After Boylan first made her allegations public in December, the Cuomo administration undercut her story by releasing personnel memos to media outlets revealing that Boylan resigned after she was confronted about complaints she belittled and yelled at her staff.

Boylan has said those records “were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me.”

Other aides have said that the Democratic governor asked them unwelcome personal questions about sex and dating. One former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she was open to sex with an older man.

Last winter there was a chorus of calls for Cuomo’s resignation from many top elected Democrats in New York, including two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. But Cuomo refused to quit and has been raising money for a fourth term in office.

His position on the allegations has also hardened into one of defiance. Cuomo has always denied touching anyone inappropriately, but he initially said he was sorry if his behavior with women was “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.” In recent months, he’s taken a more combative tack, saying he did nothing wrong and questioning the motives of accusers and critics.

He has also questioned the neutrality of the lawyers hired by the attorney general to investigate the allegations. One of the attorneys, Joon Kim, was involved in previous investigations of corruption by people in Cuomo’s administration when he was a federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Cuomo hasn’t expressly said why he believes that would make Kim biased.

The attorney general’s report is expected to play an important role in an ongoing inquiry in the state Assembly into whether there are grounds for Cuomo to be impeached.

The Assembly hired its own legal team to investigate Cuomo’s conduct, plus other allegations of wrongdoing. The legislature is looking into the help Cuomo got from senior aides to write a book about the pandemic, special access that Cuomo relatives got to COVID-19 testing last year, and the administration’s decision to withhold some data on nursing home deaths from the public for several months.

Some members of the judiciary committee have said they expect James’ report to be “critical” for the impeachment investigation.

New York state regulations say sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature — from unwanted flirtation to sexual jokes — that creates an offensive work environment, regardless of a perpetrator’s intent.

The governor, in contrast, has repeatedly argued that he did not intend to harass anyone. His office has said he took the state’s mandated sexual harassment training, but has not provided any documentation proving he did.

Cuomo championed a landmark 2019 state law that made it easier for sexual harassment victims to prove their case in court. Alleged victims no longer have to meet the high bar of proving sexual harassment is “severe and pervasive.”

Upon hearing the findings in the report released by Letitia James, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said: “My first thoughts are with the women who were subject to this abhorrent behavior, and their bravery in stepping forward to share their stories. The Attorney General’s detailed and thorough report substantiates many disturbing instances of severe misconduct. Andrew Cuomo committed sexual assault and sexual harassment, and intimidated a whistleblower. It is disqualifying.

The mayor continued: “It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can bo longer serve as Governor. He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately.”

For his part, Cuomo maintained Tuesday that he “never touched anyone inappropriately,” as he pushed back on the James report that concluded that he did indeed sexually harass several women in violation of state and federal law. Speaking on video without reporters to ask questions, the governor was adamant in his denial, as he has been since the scandal erupted.

The NYT reported that Cuomo declared that “the facts are much different from what has been portrayed.”

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in what appeared to be a prerecorded message, as was reported by the NYT.  “I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been.”

The Times reported that Cuomo argued that he has a tendency to hug or kiss people on the cheek, gestures he described as “meant to convey warmth, nothing more.”

As he spoke, a slide show was played of photographs showing him hugging and kissing members of the public and powerful leaders. “I do it with everyone,” Mr. Cuomo said, offering the pictures as evidence. “Black and white, young and old, straight and L.G.B.T.Q., powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street.”

Joining the chorus of those calling for Cuomo’s resignation in the immediate aftermath of the report issued by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James were Senate Majority leader Ckuck Schumer (D-NY) and NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

They said: “As we have said before, the reported actions of the Governor were profoundly disturbing, inappropriate, and completely unacceptable. Today’s report from the New York State Attorney General substantiated and corroborated the allegations of the brave women who came forward to share their stories – and we commend the women for doing so.

“The New York State Attorney General has conducted an independent, thorough and professional investigation that found the Governor violated state and federal law, had a pattern of sexually harassing current and former employees, retaliated against at least one of the accusers and created a hostile work environment.”

They continued by saying: “No elected official is above the law. The people of New York  deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also called on Cuomo to resign. She said in a statement that, “Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the Governor to resign.”

President Biden also weighed in on this issue, telling a reporter at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that he would ask that Cuomo tender his resignation forthwith.

New York State Senator Mike Martucci said in a statement sent out to the media: “The disturbing evidence of sexual harassment detailed by the Attorney General and her investigators at today’s press conference confirms what I already believed to be true – Andrew Cuomo is utterly unfit to continue to serve as Governor of our great state. If he has any shame, he ought to resign immediately. If he refuses to do so, the State Assembly must finally do its job and impeach him.

Make no mistake, the Governor’s conduct broke federal and state laws. He even sexually harassed a State Trooper assigned to his protection detail. This is someone who would have taken a bullet to protect him. Members of the Legislature were elected to uphold the laws and Constitution of our state. Failure to remove Andrew Cuomo would be a dereliction of that duty and I don’t intend to shirk mine. Our state must finally turn the page on his corrosive and corrupt leadership. The time is now.”

New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said: “Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The AG’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward.” She added that, “No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps. Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment.”

(Sources: AP, NYT)


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