An emotional Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he would not step down in the face of multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
“I am not going to resign,” Cuomo said in his first public appearance since the accusations surfaced last week. The bulk of his briefing was devoted to an update on Covid-19 in the state.
Reporters who questioned him via Zoom did not ask if he still plans to run for a fourth term next year.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is facing growing calls for his resignation after former staffer Lindsey Boylan detailed allegations of sexual harassment against him last Wednesday. Two more women — former aide Charlotte Bennett and Anna Ruch, who met Cuomo for the first time at a wedding — have since accused the governor of making unwanted advances.
The governor said he fully supports “a woman’s right to come forward,” and apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable.” He said state Attorney General Tish James should complete her investigation into the allegations.
“This is what I want you to know and I want you to know this from me directly: I never touched anyone inappropriately,” he said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable … And, I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone. Or cause anyone any pain.
“I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion.”
Some top staff members have begun to leave as Cuomo’s troubles mount. Gareth Rhodes, a senior adviser to the governor and a familiar face in his press briefings, confirmed to POLITICO that he has left for his previous position at the Department of Financial Services. First deputy press secretary Will Burns also told the governor’s office that he is leaving.
Asked about the troubles surrounding her boss, Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa echoed the governor in asking the public to withhold judgment until the conclusion of the attorney general’s investigation.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that this administration has done to further women’s rights, to expand protections for women in the workplace, out of the workplace, maternal health, reproductive health, the list goes on and on and on,” she said. “I don’t think this diminishes any of that.”
Although New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others have questioned Cuomo’s ability to lead amid the scandals, Cuomo focused most of his briefing on the state’s pandemic response.
He touted the state’s reopening plans, travel restriction changes, new gathering limits and vaccination rollout, emphasizing positive developments in the year-long pandemic.
Legislative leaders announced a plan Tuesday to weaken enhanced emergency powers granted to Cuomo at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year. Republicans and even some Democrats have criticized the agreement, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough.