New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former state employees, and retaliated against at least one woman for going public with her complaints, according to a much-anticipated report released on Tuesday by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. The findings are the results of a four-month independent investigation following allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo.
The report noted 11 individuals who had been harassed by the third-term governor, and said that the women he harassed were not limited to his staff but included a state trooper on his protective detail as well as members of the public. Cuomo engaged in “unwelcome and nonconsensual touching,” and made “numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” the report detailed. The governor’s actions created a culture “filled with fear and intimidation,” that normalized Cuomo’s “frequent flirtations and gender-based comments,” allowing the harassment to continue.
“These interviews and pieces of evidence reveal a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture,” James told the press on Tuesday. “Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state law.”
The details of the findings are indeed disturbing, and include several graphic accounts of the governor’s alleged sexual harassment. Investigator Anne Clarke said on Tuesday that Gov. Cuomo “reached under the blouse” of an executive assistant to “grab her breast,” and that he also groped the assistant on other occasions. The investigation also found that while the state trooper assigned to protect Cuomo held the door open for him at an event, he ran “his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip,” and touched her inappropriately on several other occasions, including running his finger down her spine and saying, “Hey, you.” Cuomo also reportedly asked the trooper to help him find a girlfriend “who can handle pain.”
The report also details a toxic workplace that insulated Cuomo from potential consequences for his behavior. “It was a culture where you could not say no to the governor,” Joon Kim, one of the attorney general’s investigators, said on Tuesday. “And if you upset him, or his senior staff, you would be written off, cast aside, or worse.” The report describes “an intense and overriding focus on secrecy and loyalty.” Ana Liss, a former policy aide who accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior earlier this year, told investigators that “in his office the rules were different. It was just, you should view it as a compliment if the Governor finds you aesthetically pleasing enough … It was like we were in a different decade.”
Former staffer Lindsey Boylan experienced the consequences of betraying Cuomo after she accused him of inappropriate conduct in two December tweets before detailing her experience in a blog post in February. Clarke says Cuomo’s office engaged in “unlawful retaliation” against Boylan by leaking her confidential personnel file. “The reaction again — we believe informed by the overall culture of the Executive Chamber — was to protect and attack,” the report notes of the response to Boylan’s accusation.
James said on Tuesday that her office found all 11 of the victims who came forward to be credible, and that investigators “independently corroborated and substantiated these facts, interviews, and evidence, including contemporaneous notes and communications.”
Cuomo denied the report’s findings in a video address Tuesday afternoon. “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said.
"I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances."
— Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) denies the damning, detailed, and credible allegations of sexual harassment laid out by NY AG Letitia James. pic.twitter.com/sVLzbI8rHm
— The Recount (@therecount) August 3, 2021
Cuomo went on to cast some of the allegations not as harassment or assault, but as a display of “warmth, nothing more.” The video even featured a montage of images of Cuomo affectionately touching faces and kissing people on the cheek. Clarke, the attorney general’s investigator, preemptively countered the idea that Cuomo’s actions were warm and familial, saying on Tuesday that what the report details “is not old-fashioned, affectionate behavior as his staff would describe it.”
The attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo’s potential misconduct commenced after several women accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct earlier this year, the first detailed account coming in late February from Lindsay Boylan, the former staffer, who described unwanted kissing and a pattern of behavior that made her feel “nauseous” at work. The ensuing weeks brought more allegations of misconduct, and with them calls from several of the state’s most prominent Democrats for Cuomo to resign. Cuomo maintained the allegations were false and equated stepping down to “bowing to cancel culture.”
“There are now two reviews underway,” Cuomo said during a conference call on March 12th. “No one wants them to happen more quickly and more thoroughly than I do. Let them do it. I am not going to argue this issue in the press. That’s not the way it should be done. Serious allegations should be weighed seriously.”
The findings released Tuesday have reignited calls for Cuomo to resign. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement that the report highlights “unacceptable behavior” and that the “the Governor must resign for the good of the state.” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s response was more tempered and noted that the assembly will now undertake an examination of the report, but he did say that “the details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching” and that “the conduct by the governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office.”
If his past tweets are any indication, Cuomo would seem to agree:
There should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) May 17, 2013
This is a developing news story and will be updated.