NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday the independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, led by Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark, found Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and violated state and federal laws.
The investigators say following an investigation that spanned nearly five months it was concluded that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including former and current state employees "by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing, and hugging, and making inappropriate comments."
According to investigators, the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with their story. Investigators also say the Executive Chamber fostered a “toxic” workplace that enabled “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”
The actions of the governor and those of the Executive Chamber violated multiple state and federal laws and the executive chambers own written policies, according to investigators.
“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” said Attorney General James. “I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man — no matter how powerful — can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”
Several people came forward accusing the governor of inappropriate conduct, he previously denied all allegations and said he would not resign. Over the course of the investigation he has repeatedly said that the investigation should be completed so the facts could be revealed and he would not argue the issue in the press.
In February Cuomo addressed the allegations and said in part:
"I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."
On March 1, special counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Beth Garvey, submitted an official referral to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, granting her request to launch an independent investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the governor.
Multiple Western New York and New York State elected leaders called on Cuomo to resign or step aside in March, the governor responded during a March conference call by saying:
"As I have said before, and I firmly believe, women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully. But I also want to be clear – there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged. Period."
Tuesday afternoon Cuomo responded to the independent investigation and denied its findings.
Elected leaders across the state have responded to the findings of the investigation, many continuing to call for Cuomo's resignation.
The independent investigators say 179 individuals were interviewed over the course of the investigation and included:
- Current and former members of the Executive Chamber
- State Troopers
- Additional state employees
- Others who interacted regularly with the governor
More than 74,000 documents, emails, texts and pictures were also reviewed according to investigators.
Officials say Gov. Cuomo answered questions under oath as part of the investigation and he denied the most serious allegations with "blanket denials."
As part of the investigation, Governor Cuomo also sat with the interviewers and answered questions under oath. While the governor denied the most serious allegations, the investigators found that he did so by offering “blanket denials” or that he had a “lack of recollection as to specific incidents.” The investigators also found that the governor’s recollection “stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the governor’s conduct.”
You can view the report at the following links:
You can watch Attorney General James' press conference below.
In response to the announcement, the attorney for accuser Charlotte Bennett released the following statement:
The findings released today demonstrate what Charlotte Bennett stated publicly, at great personal cost, more than six months ago: Governor Cuomo sexually harassed her during her employment as his executive assistant and his enablers protected him and covered it up.
The Governor came on to Charlotte and made unwelcome sexual advances toward her in his personal office as New York endured the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The actions he took against Charlotte fit the very definition of sexual harassment under Executive Department policy, and, further, violated New York state law. He subjected Charlotte to sexual harassment, individually, and created a sexually hostile and toxic work environment for all women. Sadly, Charlotte was not the only extraordinary woman whose career in the Executive Department was cut short and derailed as a result of the Governor’s illegal behavior. The Governor’s actions have deprived New Yorkers of the professionalism, passion, and dedication to their state that Charlotte and the many others who refused to submit to his advances have to offer.
The Governor must resign immediately, along with his senior staff who protected and enabled him in violation of NY State law, to the detriment of the women he harassed. If he does not, the New York State Assembly must accept the Attorney General’s findings and begin taking the appropriate steps to remove him from office.
On March 17, Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie and Judiciary Committee Chair Charles D. Lavine announced the Assembly retained the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to lead an impeachment investigation into allegations against the governor which is a separate investigation from the AG's independent investigation.
Heastie released the following statement early Tuesday:
We have received the Attorney General's 168 page report containing findings of sexual harassment and misconduct committed by Governor Cuomo. The findings contained in the report are disturbing. The details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching. Our hearts go out to all the individuals who have had to endure this horrible experience. The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office.
The report has been forwarded to the members of the Judiciary Committee as well as all members of the Assembly. We will now undertake an in-depth examination of the report and its corresponding exhibits with our Assembly counsels as well the legal firm we have retained to assist us.
We will have more to say in the very near future.
Heastie released the following statement later Tuesday afternoon:
After our conference this afternoon to discuss the Attorney General's report concerning sexual harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo, it is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office.
Once we receive all relevant documents and evidence from the Attorney General, we will move expeditiously and look to conclude our impeachment investigation as quickly as possible.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace you can find resources here.