Cuomo, a Democrat in his third term in office, in a video message accused the investigators of being politically motivated and urged New Yorkers to read a competing report he had produced about the incidents with the women.
“Please take the time to read the facts and decide for yourself,” he said.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he added.
Eleven women this year accused Cuomo of sexually harassing them, and the governor agreed to an investigation into the claims.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, another Democrat, handed over the probe to a team led by Joon Kim, a former acting U.S. attorney, and Anne Clark, an employment law expert.
The team’s report published Monday said Cuomo did engage in sexual harassment and that his chamber mishandled sexual harassment allegations.
“Specifically, we find that the Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, 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 team wrote.
“Our investigation revealed that the Governor’s sexually harassing behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other State employees, including a State Trooper on his protective detail and members of the public. We also conclude that the Executive Chamber’s culture—one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments—contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist. That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment.”
Many Democrats called on Cuomo to resign earlier this year, but he declined to do so, pointing to how the investigation was underway.
He’s now again refusing to step down, despite the probe’s findings.
Democrats issued fresh calls for Cuomo to leave office after the report’s release.
“This report highlights unacceptable behavior by Governor Cuomo and his administration. As I said, when these disturbing allegations first came to light, the Governor must resign for the good of the state,” New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Now that the investigation is complete and the allegations have been substantiated, it should be clear to everyone that he can no longer serve as Governor.”
New York Sen. Todd Kaminsky, another Democrat, said the governor “must step aside or be removed.”
“Governor Cuomo should have resigned in March. He should resign now. If he does not, he should be impeached. If he is not, he should be defeated at the polls,” New York City Councilman Brad Lander wrote on Twitter.
Similar sentiments were offered by a slew of others, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
New York’s Constitution allows impeachment of public officers for misconduct of malversation while in office.
The state Assembly would start the process by introducing and voting on an impeachment resolution. A simple majority would be required for the resolution to pass.
The New York Senate would, if the resolution was approved, hold an impeachment trial. Conviction, or removal from office, would take two-thirds of the state’s upper chamber and the seven judges on the state’s Court of Appeals.
Cuomo got personal in his first reaction to the report, saying he had “concerns as to the independence of the reviewers” that James appointed, and singling out Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who has said Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life.
Bennett and her lawyer ” read into comments that I made and draw inferences that I never meant,” Cuomo said. “They ascribe motives that I never had. And simply put, they heard things that I just didn’t say.”
Bennett’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said the findings released Tuesday demonstrate that Cuomo sexually harassed her client.
“He subjected Charlotte to sexual harassment, individually, and created a sexually hostile and toxic work environment for all women,” Katz said.
Both Katz and Bennett said Cuomo should resign.
While broadly denying wrongdoing, Cuomo said he is bringing in an expert to update the state’s sexual harassment training program, so the government “can be a model of office behavior.”
“I accept responsibility, and we are making changes,” he said.
As far as possible prosecution of the governor, the legal team stopped short of recommending it.
“While concluding that the Governor engaged in unlawful sexual harassment, we do not reach in this report a conclusion as to whether the conduct amounts to or should be the subject of criminal prosecution,” they said in a footnote. The team said certain criminal authorities, including the Albany Police Department, have been alerted to some of the allegations.