New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned after an investigation found he sexually harassed 11 women, adding to legal pressure and demands for his removal by President Joe Biden and others.
Cuomo, 63, denied allegations of sexual harassment contained in a report released last week by the New York attorney general’s office.
Speaking in a live speech, Mr Cuomo said: “I believe that under these circumstances, the best way I can help right now is to step aside and let the government come back to the government.
“My resignation will be effective within 14 days.”
He added that he wanted to “severely and deeply apologize” to any women who might have offended him.
“I have been very familiar with people,” said Mr. Cuomo. “I casually hug and kiss people, women and men. I’ve done this all my life.”
“In my opinion, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize how far the line was redrawn.”
He will be replaced by Deputy Governor Kathleen Hoechul, who is also a Democrat. Hochhol’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Kerry, and she often refers to her Irish heritage in the context of her work.
Cuomo has served as Governor of New York since 2011.
Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James released the results Five months of independent investigation which concluded that he had engaged in conduct in violation of United States and State laws.
Investigation, in detail in 168 page reportCuomo touched, kissed, or made suggestive comments to women, including current and former government workers – one of whom is a state soldier – and retaliated against at least one woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.
Lt. Gov. Cathy Hochhol, a Democrat from western New York, will serve as governor of the state of more than 19 million people until the end of Mr. Cuomo’s term in December 2022 as outlined in the state constitution, becoming the first woman to hold a postal office.
Cuomo’s resignation marks the second time in 13 years that New York’s governor has stepped down in scandal, after Elliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 over his sponsorship of prostitutes.
Mr Cuomo has also become the latest strongman to have been brought down in recent years after the emergence of the #MeToo social movement against sexual assault and harassment that rocked politics, Hollywood, the business world and the workplace.
His resignation prevented him from possibly being removed from office through impeachment proceedings in the state legislature. The investigation of the ongoing accusation promised to intensify.
Mr Cuomo, 63, has been elected to three terms, as was his late father, Mario Cuomo.
He previously served as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1997 to 2001 under former President Bill Clinton.
Like his father, Andrew Cuomo never ran for president despite speculation about his possible national ambitions.
He gained national prominence last year early in the Covid-19 pandemic after giving daily press conferences as his state became the US epicenter of the public health crisis.
The civil investigation found that the actions of Mr. Cuomo and his top advisers violated several state and federal laws, but Mrs. James has not filed criminal charges.
Local prosecutors are free to do so, which means Mr Cuomo still faces legal risks.
Local prosecutors in Manhattan, Nassau County, Albany County and Westchester County said after the report was released that they were looking into the matter and requested evidence from the independent investigation.
New York City’s mayor said Cuomo should face criminal charges.
Mr Cuomo had for months denied the growing allegations of sexual harassment – and renewed those denials after the investigation report was released.
But what was left of his political support collapsed after the results were announced. Hours later, Biden – a friend of the governor for years – told reporters at the White House: “I think he should resign.”
Other prominent Democrats including US Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also lined up to call on the party’s once-starred to resign.
Investigators concluded that Mr. Cuomo and his associates had created a “toxic” and “hostile” workplace in an office dominated by bullying, fear and intimidation.
Complaints about sexual harassment emerged after broader criticism by New York Democratic politicians that Cuomo ruled through intimidation.
Cuomo last year appeared as a rising politician who presented himself as an authoritative figure at televised press conferences about the pandemic.
His image has been polished by television interviews with his younger brother Chris Cuomo, CNN host.
Soon after James, a fellow Democrat, detailed the findings, Cuomo, a divorced father of three adult daughters, released a video statement saying, “I have not touched anyone inappropriately or advanced in an inappropriate sexual manner.”
“It’s just not me,” Mr Cuomo said in the video, where he said what the women described as sexual advances were harmless gestures and comments inspired by the natural physical warmth stemming from the culture in which he grew up.
He indicated in the video that he had no intention of resigning, referring specifically to the fight against the epidemic.
A Marist poll released the day after the report was released showed that 59% of New Yorkers wanted Cuomo to resign, compared to 32% who said he should serve his term and 9% who were unsure.
But among Democrats, only 52% preferred to resign.
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