Biden calls on Cuomo to quit after damning sexual harassment report
Joe Biden has led calls from both parties for New York governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after an investigation found he had sexually harassed 11 women.
New York’s attorney general Letitia James unveiled the results of an investigation on Tuesday that showed Cuomo engaged in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging and made inappropriate comments to multiple women.
“I think he should resign,” the president told reporters at the White House hours after the results of the investigation were published.
“I understand that the state legislature may decide to impeach. I don’t know that for a fact. I’ve not read all that data.”
Asked about Cuomo’s attempt to defend himself by using an image in which he is making physical contact with Biden himself, the president said: “Look, I’m not going to flyspeck this. I am sure there were some embraces that were totally innocent, but apparently the attorney general decided there were things that weren’t.”
He acknowledged: “I’ve not read the report. I don’t know the detail of it. All I know is the end result.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the White House said the findings were “abhorrent” .
“I don’t know that anyone could have watched this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent. I know I certainly did,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters later on Tuesday.
Biden had previously said Cuomo should resign if the allegations were shown by an investigation to be true.
Biden’s comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called on Cuomo to resign, as did several New York Democrats – including both the state’s US senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Mondaire Jones.
In her statement, Pelosi said a thorough investigation had been concluded. She said: “As always, I commend the women who came forward to speak their truth. Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the Governor to resign.”
Schumer and Gillibrand issued a joint statement that called the report “profoundly disturbing”.
It added: “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.”
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and fellow Democrat but longtime political foe of the governor, said: “I’ll state the obvious: the summary you just gave represents behaviour that’s unacceptable.
“Unacceptable in anyone, let alone a public servant. I’ve be very clear about that fact that what we’ve seen is disqualifying.”
De Blasio’s all-but certain successor, the Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams, also pulled no punches and called for Cuomo to be impeached if he did not step down. Meanwhile. Cuomo’s own deputy, the New York lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, also called for him to resign, calling his behavior “repulsive” and “unlawful”.
“I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward. No one is above the law,” she said.
Cuomo – who has long had the backing of New York’s labor movement – also lost a major union supporter. In a statement, 32BJ-SEIU president Kyle Bragg said Cuomo needed to go.
He said: “Creating work environments where sexual harassment is not tolerated is nota matter of politics, but principle, from which no one should be exempted. We urge the governor to resign and to take responsibility for his well-documented actions and how they have hurt women.”
Republicans, too, seized on the findings. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, said: “No one is above the law and today justice must be served. Governor Cuomo must resign and be arrested immediately. President Joe Biden must immediately call for Cuomo’s resignation.”
Cuomo released a defiant video address on Tuesday, insisting “that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances” and making clear that he still has no intention of stepping down.
Cuomo, the son of three-term New York governor Mario Cuomo, became a political star through televised daily briefings during the early months of the pandemic but was tarnished by accusations that he misreported the numbers of deaths in nursing homes.
He faced calls to quit last year when two former aides accused him of sexually harassing them in the workplace and several more women then came forward with accusations of misconduct, prompting James’s five-month investigation.
Reuters contributed to this report