New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has resigned after an investigation found he sexually harassed several women, leading to attempts to remove him from office.
The best way to help at this time is for me to resign,” he said as he continued to deny the allegations. His resignation is to take effect in 14 days.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the first woman to head New York State.
Cuomo was urged to resign by other Democrats, including President Joe Biden.
Just a year ago, he was admired by millions of Americans who watched his unvarnished daily television reports on the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo is the third New York governor to leave office in the shadow of a scandal.
Why did Cuomo resign?
An independent investigation by the New York attorney general’s office found that Cuomo, 63, sexually harassed 11 women, including state employees.
The women alleged that he made sexual comments to them, touched or groped them inappropriately and kissed them without their consent.
The report has prompted many prominent Democrats to turn against Cuomo, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Chuck Schumer and two US senators from New York.
New York Democrats have already begun planning impeachment proceedings against him. He is still under criminal investigation in connection with harassment allegations.
Announcing his resignation on Tuesday, Cuomo continued to deny the sexual harassment allegations but said he wanted to apologise “deeply” to any women who may have been offended by his actions.
“In my opinion,” he said, “I did not cross a line with anyone. But I didn’t realise how far the line had been redrawn”.
She added that her instinct was to “fight this controversy because I thought it was politically motivated”.
However, he said he was resigning because the “current trajectory” of the scandal would lead to months of distraction and “cost taxpayers millions”.
Mr. Cuomo said the allegations had damaged his relationship with his daughters.
“I sat on the couch with them and listened to the ugly allegations for weeks. I saw the look in their eyes and the expressions on their faces. It was painful,” he said.
He said he had “never insulted a woman and would never intentionally insult a woman”.
After Cuomo announced his resignation, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime critic of the governor, said it was “high time for him to step down”.
“I respect the governor’s decision,” Biden told reporters at the White House. I respect the decision he has made.
White House press secretary Jane Psaki had previously said that the president had not spoken to his longtime friend or informed him of his resignation since the report was released.
Cuomo’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, is also facing calls for his resignation after it was revealed that he had advised the governor before announcing his resignation on Tuesday.
The younger Cuomo apologized to viewers in May for strategizing with his brother on how to handle the initial allegations of misconduct. He refrained from reporting on the matter and did not comment on the official report. He has since gone on leave.
A separate federal investigation is also looking into whether the governor’s office deliberately underestimated the number of deaths in New York nursing homes at Covidien.
It is a stunning about-face for a former Democratic heavyweight who was hailed as a national hero last year, during the Covid pandemic. His image now is more that of a villain.
Before the report came out – and in the early days after its release – Andrew Cuomo was trying to survive the scandal. He knew that the #MeToo movement had changed the conversation about sexual assault – after all, he had passed a law offering new protections to victims. Therefore, in a public statement, he was in a sense trying to have it both ways.
He said the women should be heard, but then tried to discredit his accusers. The sexual advances described by the women appeared to him to be harmless gestures brought on by the physical warmth of their upbringing and culture.
The pressure did not let up, and it became increasingly clear that Andrew Cuomo was being pushed to the wall. But when the provocative politician announced his resignation, it was still the big surprise that shook New York and the whole country.
Who is Cuomo’s successor?
Kathy Hochul will become the first female governor of the fourth most populous state in the USA.
The 62-year-old is a centrist Democrat from the Buffalo, New York area. She has been on the governor’s staff since 2014 and has played a largely ceremonial role as lieutenant governor.
She is not part of Cuomo’s inner circle, but he described her on Tuesday as “smart and capable.”
Hochul joined a chorus of politicians last week condemning the New York governor, saying his resignation on Tuesday was “the right thing to do”.
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in line to succeed, I am ready to lead as the 57th Governor of New York State,” she said in a statement.
It is unclear whether she will seek a full term in the 2022 election.