New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed numerous women on his staff or in his circle in Albany, repeatedly touching, grabbing or making inappropriate comments towards them and retaliating against at least one when she came forward with her story, according to a long-awaited investigative report from Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
“Governor Cuomo’s actions violated multiple state and federal laws,” James said in a briefing Tuesday.
“This investigation has revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric that makes our state government and shines a light on injustice present at the highest levels of state government.”
James stressed that her review is complete and was civil in nature. She said any criminal investigations would have to be pursued separately by prosecutors, although none of the allegations were forwarded to them for any potential criminality.
Here are some details from the report:
How many women testified?
Eleven women’s accounts are included in the report, and nine of them are or were employed by New York. That includes a state trooper who was a part of his security detail, according to the report.
Several are named, including Lyndsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, former aides to the governor, who each came forward to the media this year with their stories.
In all, 179 witnesses were consulted for the investigation, which has concluded and was made public in full Tuesday, James said.
The investigative team, led by former federal prosecutor Joon H. Kim and employment attorney Anne L. Clark, reviewed 74,000 pieces of documentation, including emails, texts, and other evidence.
They issued 70 subpoenas related to the documents and other investigative information.
The women's accounts were corroborated and substantiated by other witnesses, James said.
What do they allege against Cuomo?
The women alleged in the report that Cuomo on multiple occasions, grabbed or groped their breasts; ran and pressed his hands on various parts of their bodies, including their stomachs, backs and legs; made “sexually suggestive and gender-based” comments about their appearance and asked them about their love lives, according to the report.
He told women they “looked great for (their) age,” or asked them what they thought about monogamy, and told them they “weren’t ready” for work if they weren’t dressed nicely or wearing makeup, according to the report.
Women who came forward faced an onslaught of vitriol from the governor’s staff, including Boylan, on whom Cuomo’s staff pulled “personnel memos” that contained disparaging information about her conduct in the office in the mid-2010s, investigators said.
What does Cuomo have to say?
Cuomo has repeatedly denied specific allegations of sexual harassment in recent months, although he said he may have hugged or kissed certain staff members on the lips but couldn’t remember who, according to the report.
He said being “old-fashioned,” he may have referred to staff members with terms like “honey,” “darling” or “sweetheart,” according to the report.
The investigators found that Cuomo’s denials of his actions in relation to incidents women remembered clearly to be “contrived” and “to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of the evidence obtained during our investigation,” the report read.
In a video statement released Tuesday, Cuomo denied most of the allegations against him. He admitted to some instances of kissing and hugging people, but said he never touched or spoke to anyone with an inappropriate sexual motive.
He said the women, in particular Charlotte Bennett, misunderstood him and his intentions. Bias, he said, is woven into the entire AG investigation.
"They read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant," Cuomo said. "Simply put, they heard things that I just didn't say."
He also said his public displays of affection are meant to convey warmth, empathy and his appreciation of others.
"I do kiss people on the forehead. I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand. I do embrace people," Cuomo said. "On occasion, I do slip and say sweetheart or darling or honey."
He said he'll be looking into implementing changes in the state's sexual harassment training.
"I accept responsibility and we are making changes," Cuomo said. "We have to get the job done. I promised you that I would and I will."
Will Cuomo resign?
James said that the question of whether the governor should resign is “up to the governor.”
“The document speaks for itself,” she said.
But calls were coming in for Cuomo to do so immediately after the report's release.
"The Governor must resign immediately, along with his senior staff who protected and enabled him in violation of NY State law, to the detriment of the women he harassed," Deborah Katz, a lawyer for Bennett, said in a statement.
"If he does not, the New York State Assembly must accept the Attorney General’s findings and begin taking the appropriate steps to remove him from office.”
Curtis Sliwa, Republican New York City mayoral candidate, also called on Cuomo Tuesday to resign and allow Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul to serve the rest of his term until the next election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Cuomo should resign and commended his accusers in a brief statement released Tuesday.
"Under Attorney General Letitia James, a comprehensive and independent investigation into the allegations against Governor Cuomo has been completed," Pelosi said. "Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the Governor to resign."
In his video statement Tuesday, Cuomo called on New Yorkers to be smart and look at the facts for themselves. He did not bring up the calls for his resignation, instead discussing his plans for reimagined sexual harassment training and the continued focus on handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My job is not about me. My job is about you," Cuomo said. "What matters to me at the end of the day is getting the most done I can for you. ... I will not be distracted from that job."
What about the other investigations into Cuomo?
James’ investigation into whether state funds went towards Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal, which delved into his experience leading the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, is still ongoing, James said.
Additionally, James’ report into Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations is separate from an independent impeachment report launched by the New York Assembly earlier this year.
“I am inspired by all the brave women that came forward, but more importantly, I believe them,” James. “These eleven women were in a hostile and toxic workplace environment. We have an obligation and duty to protect women in their workplace.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the Assembly Judiciary Committee will continue its work, but he called Tuesday's findings "disturbing" and "gut-wrenching," and said the conduct detailed "would indicate someone who is not fit for office."
Assembly investigation: Assembly's probe has received 100 tips about Cuomo amid scandals
Sarah Taddeo is an enterprise reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Andrew Cuomo: AG report says he sexually harassed at least 11 women