Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has long faced accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct, though he has maintained his innocence while brushing off calls to step down.
That position will be increasingly difficult to hold in light of the exhaustive 168-page report released this week by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“Conduct constituting sexual harassment”
According to a roughly five-month investigation, James determined that Cuomo did sexually harass — if not assault in some cases — at least 11 women, most of whom are current or former state employees.
As one Wall Street Journal reporter noted, investigators stopped short of recommending criminal prosecution even for the more serious offenses.
The executive summary asserted that the governor “engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment” under state and federal law and targeted “a number of current and former New York State employees” while doing so.
His alleged behavior included “engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” the investigators determined.
Depicting Cuomo’s office culture as “one filled with fear and intimidation,” the summary concluded that his pattern of misbehavior was permitted to “occur and persist” because his “frequent flirtations and gender-based comments” had effectively been normalized.
“Documents, emails, texts, and pictures”
“That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment,” the document asserted.
In a press release, James indicated that her staff reviewed more than 74,000 “documents, emails, texts, and pictures” and conducted 179 interviews during the course of the probe.
“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” she added. “I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”
It remains to be seen if Cuomo will face any legal consequences for his alleged misdeeds, but political backlash seems all but certain.
The governor is now being urged to step down by prominent Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, he is still the focus of an impeachment inquiry being conducted by the Democratic-controlled state Assembly.