Facing a wave of calls from New York senators and most of the state’s Democratic MPs, all calling for his resignation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it clear on Friday (12) that he did not have the intention to resign, characterizing the pressure exerted by his own party. as a “culture of cancellation” and insisting that it will not give in to it.
The calls first came in a coordinated wave of statements issued in the morning by more than a dozen MPs – most of the Democratic MPs in New York – including Jerrold Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The wording was clear: Cuomo has lost the ability to govern and must resign from his post.
In the end, Senators Chuck Schumer, Democratic Majority Leader, and Kirsten Gillibrand also urged Cuomo to resign.
“From the multiple and credible allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, it is clear that Governor Andrew Cuomo has lost the trust of his partners in the government and people of New York,” the senators said in a joint statement. published late Friday afternoon. “Governor Cuomo must resign.”
It was a remarkable moment for Cuomo, a Democrat serving his third term as governor who was nationally acclaimed last year in the early months of the pandemic, but now faces multiple inquiries and the threat of impeachment due to a series of allegations of sexual harassment. and his attempt to hide the total number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. At the end of the day, the governor was almost completely isolated.
He responded defiantly – a surprise, in a traditional political sense, given that other elected politicians have resigned in the face of much less unanimous rejection. But his reaction also marks a return to the governor’s usual attitude, generally combative, but which last week had taken on a more conciliatory and regrettable tone when speaking about the harassment allegations.
In a hastily organized press conference after MPs spoke out, Cuomo immediately rejected calls for his resignation and denied harassing or mistreating anyone. He criticized parliamentarians for drawing hasty conclusions, calling them “stupid and dangerous”.
“I did not do what was alleged. Complete stop, ”Cuomo said.
The sudden massive defection of members of Cuomo’s own party signaled one of the most compelling criticisms of an incumbent governor in state history, leading to new questions about his ability to overcome the one of the most serious political crises of his decade in power.
Several women, some of whom are former or current government employees, accuse the governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior; among them, an unidentified adviser who said this week that Cuomo had felt it at the Executive Mansion. Last week, Lindsey Boylan, a former administration official, said the governor had kissed her on the lips without her wanting to. And Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to Cuomo, said the governor asked her questions that invaded her privacy, such as whether she had sex with older men.
As ex-allies and members of his own party turned on him, Cuomo – a political presence in New York for 40 years and the son of a former governor – also sought to portray his isolation as a virtue, suggesting that he was being punished for “not being part of the political club”.
“And you know what else?” He said. “I’m proud of it.”
Cuomo said he was determined to continue “doing his job,” but that job appears under threat due to political opposition from Albany and other sectors.
The day began with a rapid succession of statements made by members of Congress through press releases sent by e-mail or Twitter. Many lawmakers have cited the most recent allegations of sexual misconduct against the governor to justify his request to resign.
Veteran MP Carolyn Maloney, chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, said she admires women who have gone public to talk about harassment allegations against the governor, linking their revelations to the MeToo movement.
“We have come a long way,” she said in a statement. “Now is the time to make the courage of this generation end the harassment once and for all.”
Others who called for Cuomo’s resignation on Friday were MPs Jamaal Bowman, Yvette Clarke, Antonio Delgado, Adriano Espaillat, Brian Higgins, Mondaire Jones, Sean Patrick Maloney, Grace Meng, Joe Morelle, Paul Tonko, Ritchie Torres and Nydia Velázquez . Another Democratic MP, Kathleen Rice of Long Island, has already done so.
Hours after Cuomo’s impromptu press conference on Friday, Schumer and Gillibrand released their joint press release.
In total, 16 of the state’s 19 Democratic MPs called for Cuomo’s resignation, in addition to the two Democratic senators. Most of New York’s eight Republican MPs have said the governor must step down.
Even those who did not directly request his resignation have expressed doubts about the governor’s ability to run the state amid the flood of accusations, especially with the pandemic continuing and the budget deadline within three weeks. . Some lawmakers have suggested Cuomo could just step aside – not really quit – and let Vice Governor Kathy Hochul take her place until investigations are completed.
Others, including President Joe Biden, echoed Cuomo’s demands to await the results of an independent investigation into the sexual harassment allegations led by Secretary of State for Justice Letitia James. Led by two independent lawyers summoned by James, the investigation began this week.
The backlash from Democrats in New York is a worrying sign for Cuomo, who controls the party in the state and since taking office he has been perhaps the most famous politician in the state, especially since the start of the pandemic, when his briefings on the virus became staple attractions on television and his name began to be suggested as a potential presidential candidate.
Coordinating calls for his resignation also signaled the sudden deterioration in the governor’s reputation. In fact, many MPs who released statements on Friday had previously said they were in favor of inquiries, not Cuomo’s resignation.
But in the past seven days, as scandals involving the governor deepened, some New York Democrats have started to exchange views informally about their thoughts on Cuomo’s fate. The information comes from two people familiar with the discussions.
As accusations grew, according to one of these people, the deputies understood that it was only a matter of time before they were forced to turn their backs on the governor. This was especially clear on Sunday, when the state Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for Cuomo’s resignation, becoming the most powerful Democrat to have done so so far.
The turning point came this week, when an unidentified aide said Cuomo felt it at the Executive Mansion in Albany. It was the most strongly sexual accusation against the governor to date.
MPs and their advisers have exchanged phone calls over the past 24 hours, reaching a conclusion Thursday night but postponing their statements until Friday so as not to dispute the space with Joe Biden’s big coronavirus speech on Thursday, a declared a person.
One of the reasons for the Unified MPs’ calls was to make sure that no one aroused too much anger from Cuomo, who could influence the layout of new Congressional Districts in the state and could possibly try to punish one or two people, but not a dozen. , one person said.
Cuomo categorically denies claims that he touched anyone inappropriately, but admits that things he said to some of his staff may have been misinterpreted as “unwanted flirtation.”
“I now understand that maybe my interactions have been too callous or too personal and that, given my position, some of my comments may have elicited feelings that I didn’t want in other people,” Cuomo said. in a statement released on February 28. the day after the NYT reported a series of sexually-oriented and intensely personal comments the governor allegedly made, according to Bennett.
The resignation calls came a day after the New York Assembly announced a plan to open an investigation that could pave the way for Cuomo’s potential impeachment.
On Thursday evening, after nearly 60 Democratic lawmakers signed a statement calling for Cuomo’s resignation, the Assembly said it would open an investigation into the governor’s actions, with ample room for action that may also include an investigation. on Cuomo’s attempt to cover up the total. number of deaths among residents of nursing homes.
On Friday, there was still insufficient support for an impeachment (something that last happened in New York in 1913) among Democrats in the Assembly.
Cuomo said on Friday, “People know the difference between politics, surrender to the culture of cancellation, and the truth.”
He asked the population to be patient, urging them to “wait for the facts” – to be investigated by the two ongoing investigations into his behavior – before prosecuting him.
“No one more than me wants investigations to be quick and complete,” he said.