New York State Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the findings of a highly-anticipated, five-month investigation into Andrew Cuomo which found the Democratic governor sexually harassed “multiple women,” including employees in his office, in violation of state and federal law—a conclusion later rebuked by Cuomo who insisted he “never touched anyone inappropriately.”
Investigators, who detailed the probe’s results in a 165-page report, found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 different women, including current and former employees, and retaliated against at least one of the woman who made her claims public.
Cuomo harassed these women by “engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women,” James, a Democrat, announced at a Tuesday press conference.
The months-long probe was conducted by two outside lawyers hired by James—Joon Kim and Anne Clark—who together spoke with 179 witnesses, reviewed more than 74,000 pieces of evidence and reportedly grilled Cuomo for 11 hours.
The investigators found some women “suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts,” said Kim, the former acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
They also substantiated an allegation that the governor embraced an executive assistant and reached under her blouse to grab her breast, which Clark, a prominent employment lawyer, described as “the culmination of a pattern of inappropriate sexual conduct.”
“The governor’s pattern of sexually harassing behavior was not limited to members of his own staff,” said Kim, explaining other state employees were among those whose claims were found to be credible, “including a state trooper who served on [Cuomo’s] protective detail.”
“We find the culture within the Executive Chamber contributed to the conditions that allowed the governor’s sexually harassing conduct to occur and to persist,” Kim said. “The culture also informed the way in which the chamber responded … through violations of their own policies and unlawful retaliation.”
Cuomo, in a televised response released just hours after the report was made public, denied all claims of inappropriate touching and sexual harassment outlined by the investigators, and made no indication that he plans to resign over the scandal. Cuomo went on to directly respond to some of the allegations outlined in the report, flatly denying a claim from a former executive assistance—corroborated by investigators—who said she was groped by Cuomo at the governor’s mansion. “That never happened,” he said, adding that his attorney has prepared a rebuttal to every allegation put forward in the report: “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed.”
The Albany District Attorney’s office, which can bring criminal charges against Cuomo, asked James’ office for its “investigative materials” from the investigation after the report was published.
As Clark pointed out: “Both federal and state law prohibit gender-based harassment in the workplace.” Furthermore, Cuomo himself in August 2019 passed a law that eliminated in New York State the requirement that harassing conduct need to be sever or pervasive. “The governor’s conduct detailed in the report clearly meets, and far exceeds, this standard,” she said.
The New York State Attorney General’s office launched its investigation into Cuomo in March after a litany of women followed the lead of Lindsey Boylan, his former advisor, who was the first to publicly accuse the governor of sexual harassment. After mounting calls for his resignation, New York State Democrats then opened a broad impeachment investigation to scrutinize the sexual harassment claims, along with other controversies surrounding Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and his potential use of state resources for his pandemic memoir. This investigation is still ongoing, though the release of this report is already fueling renewed calls for Cuomo’s resignation.
Cuomo, who has seen his approval ratings sink over the past few months, is also being investigated by federal prosecutors for his administration’s handling of coronavirus-linked deaths in nursing homes. A separate report from James’ office found New York undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50%.
“Report Of Investigation Into Allegations Of Sexual Harassment By Governor Andrew M. Cuomo” (New York State Attorney General’s Office)