New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he will resign effective in two weeks because of a sexual harassment scandal that has crippled his administration, saying he did not want to distract the state from important work to be done.
Cuomo’s shocking announcement in a livestream from his Manhattan office came minutes after his lawyer again flatly denied claims that he had sexually harassed anyone during his three terms in office.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will replace Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and become the Empire State’s first female governor.
Cuomo’s resignation comes one week after a damning report issued by the state Attorney General’s office found he had sexually harassed at least 11 current and former staffers, including a state police trooper assigned to his protective detail and women outside of government.
It also comes as at least five district attorney’s offices around the state have begun probes of possible crimes by Cuomo against some of the women.
Cuomo, 63, said he was motivated to step down to avoid months of distraction for the state, which is continuing to deal with the Covid pandemic, from an all-but-certain impeachment over the allegations.
“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government,” Cuomo said.
“And therefore that is what I’ll do, because I work for you, and doing the right thing, is doing the right thing for you.”
While continuing to deny some of the more serious claims, Cuomo conceded he had offended some of his accusers with what he considered friendly or incidental physical contact and comments that were normal for men of his generation.
“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone,” he said. “But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”
“Thank you for letting me serve you. It has been the honor of a lifetime,” Cuomo said. “God bless you.”
Hochul, who is from the Buffalo area and turn 63 this month, tweeted: “I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers.”
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor,” she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden had not talked to Hochul about Cuomo’s resignation but added: “We look forward to working with her.”
Biden, who had called for Cuomo to resign, himself later said that, “I respect the governor’s decision.”
“He’s done a hell of a job,” Biden said. “A hell of a job … that’s why it’s so sad.”