New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that an investigation had determined that Gov. Andrew Cuomo violated federal and state law by sexually harassing women in the workplace, prompting bipartisan calls for his resignation.
The Democratic governor, though, remained defiant after the attorney general’s announcement. He said he never touched anyone inappropriately.
“Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former New York state employees by engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching,” Ms. James said during a press conference.
After a roughly five-month investigation, the New York attorney general found that Mr. Cuomo created a hostile work environment for women from 2013 through 2020.
Ms. James said independent investigators reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence and conducted 179 interviews. The evidence and a report were made public.
At least two former aides said Mr. Cuomo made inappropriate comments and touched them without consent. Mr. Cuomo asked the attorney general to look into the accusations, which garnered heavy media attention.
Lindsey Boylan, who served as deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Mr. Cuomo, accused the governor of kissing her on the lips and said he “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”
Ms. Boylan came forward in December. The governor’s administration then released personal information about Ms. Boylan to the media about her treatment of staff. Ms. Boylan has said the documents “were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me,” according to The Associated Press.
The report noted that several women said the governor asked them questions about dating, sex and their bodies. Charlotte Bennett, a former aide, said the governor asked whether she was open to having sex with older men.
The attorney general also found that Mr. Cuomo’s brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, and a political adviser counseled the governor about how to respond to the accusations.
“According to internal documents and communications obtained during the investigation, it appears that the governor’s advisors, including Mr. Pollock and Chris Cuomo, counseled him to express contrition after the press published Ms. Bennett’s allegations,” the report stated.
President Biden called on the governor to resign. He was standing by a statement he made in March that if the accusations were proved true, Mr. Cuomo should resign. He also predicted in March that the governor would be prosecuted.
On Tuesday, he stopped short of saying Mr. Cuomo should be impeached.
“Let’s take one thing at a time,” Mr. Biden said.
New York’s U.S. senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, repeated their calls for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation. They originally called for the governor to resign after the women stepped forward with their claims.
“No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the governor should resign,” Mr. Schumer and Ms. Gillibrand said in a joint statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, joined the senators from New York.
“I commend the women who came forward to speak their truth. Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the governor to resign,” she said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, said Mr. Cuomo should be impeached if he doesn’t resign.
“It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as governor. He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Some members of the New York State Assembly have suggested that it’s time to impeach the governor. They met for several hours Tuesday to consider their next steps.
“The report gives us no choice: We must reconvene session immediately & begin impeachment proceedings,” said a Twitter post by Zohran Kwame Mamdani, an Assembly member representing District 36, which covers part of Queens.
Calls for the governor to step down were bipartisan. Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, said Mr. Cuomo should be arrested.
“No one is above the law, and today justice must be served. Gov. Cuomo must resign and be arrested immediately. President Joe Biden must immediately call for Cuomo‘s resignation,” Ms. Stefanik said before Mr. Biden made his statement.
Mr. Cuomo has continued to raise money for his reelection campaign. He referred the accusations to the attorney general’s office for the probe, which was conducted by independent investigators since March.
Just a week ago, Mr. Cuomo projected confidence that he would be exonerated. He said New Yorkers would be “shocked” when the truth came out.
“Let the facts come out,” Mr. Cuomo said a week ago. “I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state, and I think when they hear the actual facts of what happened and how the situation has been handled, I think they will be shocked. Shocked because at the end of the day, the truth wins … and I am eager for the truth to come out, and New Yorkers will be shocked.”
He questioned the impartiality of the lawyers hired to investigate him.
“Do a little history. Go to Google,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters without elaborating. “Google the independent investigators.”
That wasn’t always his stance, though.
“There should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated,” the governor tweeted in 2013.
On Tuesday, he said the process was painful for him and that he cooperated with the investigation, but he noted that his attorney said his comments were taken out of context.
“I do banter with people. I do tell jokes,” Mr. Cuomo said after the attorney general’s announcement. “I try to put people at ease.”
Mr. Cuomo said he does kiss people on the cheeks and hands and that he has learned from the experience. He specifically apologized to Ms. Bennett. He said he was curious about her past as a sexual assault victim and did not mean to complicate the workplace situation.
However, the governor repeatedly denied touching any former or current staff member.
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been,” he said.
The governor said his office is making changes with workplace training on sexual harassment.
Investigators interviewed Mr. Cuomo for 11 hours, The New York Times reported.
Joon Kim and Anne Clark, the lawyers who conducted the investigation, said their report details Mr. Cuomo‘s harassment of 11 women from 2013 through 2020.
The lawyers said a state trooper, detailed in their findings, said Mr. Cuomo touched her without permission between her chest and private area and made inappropriate comments about dating and relationships. The governor requested that she join his Protective Services Unit, although she didn’t have the required years of experience.
“Trooper #1 found these interactions with the governor not only offensive and uncomfortable, but markedly different from the way the governor interacted with members of the PSU who were men, and she conveyed these incidents contemporaneously to colleagues,” the report read.
Another woman, identified as executive assistant No. 1, said the governor would hug her and reach into her blouse to touch her breast.
“He sometimes ran his hands up and down her back while he did so,” Ms. Clark said. “There were also several instances where he grabbed her butt.”
Ms. Clark said the governor did acknowledge hugging and making some comments to the women but put a “different spin on them.”
The report also noted that Mr. Cuomo created an environment of bullying and intimidation, including attempting to retaliate against a former employee who came forward with her story.
Though no criminal penalties have been lodged against the governor, the women could sue Mr. Cuomo in civil court. Ms. James said the statute of limitations for bringing claims is usually three years.
The attorney general would not comment on whether Mr. Cuomo should run for reelection.
“We are going to allow the chips to fall where they may,” said Ms. James, a Democrat.
Members of the state legislature also have suggested that Mr. Cuomo should be dinged for his handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes. Accusations surfaced that the state undercounted the deaths of nursing home patients. The Justice Department announced last month that it declined to open a civil rights probe into the issue.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.