New Jersey residents are no strangers to political scandal and controversy, but even they may be surprised at how quickly allegations of sexual harassment made New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s position untenable. Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 13 after investigators from the New York State Office of the Attorney General concluded that he had harassed almost a dozen women and retaliated against at least one of them. The resignation came less than a year after the 63-year-old Democrat was considered a hero by many and lauded as a possible future presidential candidate by the media.
Cuomo made his announcement as the state legislature was preparing to begin the process of impeaching and removing him, and he could still face criminal charges according to officials. When the AG’s report was released on Aug. 3, Cuomo dismissed the findings and claimed that his behavior was merely a reflection of his Italian heritage. He also vowed to run for reelection in 2022. This response was met with outrage from both sides of the political aisle and prompted former allies including House majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden to distance themselves from Cuomo and call for his resignation.
Fear and intimidation
According to the AG’s report, Cuomo’s sexual harassment created a work environment where female staff lived in fear. He is alleged to have subjected female workers to indecent comments, unwanted kisses and groping. When one of his victims complained and threatened to step forward, Cuomo is said to have tried to limit the political damage by leaking her confidential files to the media. During his press conference, Cuomo denied any malicious intent and continued to describe his behavior as innocent. The resignation marks an ignominious end to a career in public service that began in 1984, but Cuomo’s legal woes may be far from over.
Criminal investigations and civil lawsuits
This is because prosecutors in New York, Nassau, Westchester, Albany and Oswego counties have requested evidence from the AG’s office as they conduct their own criminal investigations, and several of Cuomo’s victims are expected to file sexual harassment lawsuits against the disgraced politician. Experts expect these lawsuits to be settled discretely as the evidence gathered by the AG’s investigators could make it difficult for Cuomo to prevail in court.