The New York attorney general’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
The office found that Cuomo harassed current and former state employees, as well as a number of women outside of state government, James said, as the office released a lengthy report on the investigation.
James said Tuesday that her investigation found that Cuomo engaged in “unwelcome and nonconsensual touching,” and made comments of a “suggestive” sexual nature. James said that the conduct created a “hostile work environment for women.”
Cuomo immediately faced mounting pressure from Democrats, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York’s two US senators, to resign.
The governor denied the allegations. “I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said in a speech Tuesday.
Cuomo’s behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other state employees, including a State Trooper on his protective detail, as well as members of the public, the attorney general’s report states. Cuomo’s conduct violated multiple federal and state laws, James said.
“We also conclude that the Executive Chamber’s culture – one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments – contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist,” investigators Joon Kim and Anne Clark wrote in the report. “That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment.”
The report details the allegations of 11 women claiming harassment. Investigators found all 11 women to be credible, Clark said, adding that their accounts had been corroborated to varying degrees.
“I believe women. And I believe these 11 women,” James said.
‘Deeply disturbing yet clear picture’
The report states Cuomo made specific denials of conduct that complainants recalled clearly, but investigators said “we found his denials to lack credibility and to be inconsistent with the weight of evidence obtained during our investigation.”
Investigators spoke to 179 individuals, and reviewed 74,000 pieces of evidence, James said. That evidence painted a “deeply disturbing yet clear picture,” she added.
The investigators repeatedly described Cuomo’s conduct as “unlawful.” A footnote in the report, however, said that the report was not reaching a conclusion as to “whether the conduct amounts to or should be the subject of criminal prosecution.”
The report laid out in meticulous detail the harassing conduct the women said they experienced, as well as the steps the investigators took to corroborate their accounts.
One unnamed state employee told investigators that Cuomo put his hand on, tapped and then grabbed her buttocks at an event where he had been speaking in New York City in September 2019. She contemporaneously memorialized the governor’s inappropriate touching in an email dated the day after the incident, according to the report.
Another accuser, Anna Ruch, whose account CNN has previously reported on, received an unwanted kiss on the cheek from the governor in September 2019 at a wedding party for one of the his senior aides, according to the report. Photographic evidence taken by one of Ruch’s friends was provided to investigators, and after the incident Ruch told friends what had happened and how upset she was by Cuomo’s actions, the report said.
An unnamed executive assistant told investigators that Cuomo touched and grabbed her buttocks while they were hugging. The report said that Cuomo asked her “multiple times about whether she had cheated or would cheat on her husband, and asking her to help find him a girlfriend.” Initially she kept the allegation to herself, according to the report, and later reported the claims to senior staff in the Executive Chamber after a March 3 press conference in which Cuomo said he “never touched anyone inappropriately.”
The report also details the blowback some accusers got from Cuomo’s office after coming forward with their investigations. After former aide Lindsey Boylan went public with her allegations of harassing behavior, the governor and Executive Chamber “actively engaged in an effort to discredit her, including by disseminating to the press confidential internal documents that painted her in a negative light,” the report said. The effort included a draft op-ed disparaging Boylan that was circulated among current and former Executive Chamber employees, according to the report.
The report said that Cuomo “personally participated in drafting” the article, which was not ultimately published.
Charlotte Bennett, another accuser who later went public with her accusations, reported to Cuomo’s chief of staff her allegations, which included comments Cuomo made to her that made her feel uncomfortable, according to the report. She was moved to a different position where she would not interact with the governor, according to the report.
Several investigations into Cuomo’s office
The investigation into the sexual harassment claims is one of several that the state attorney general’s office has launched into Cuomo and his inner circle, as a political firestorm has raged around the governor in recent months. The controversies that have swirled around Cuomo are a far cry from the acclaim he received at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
In January, James unveiled a report of her review of how his administration handled nursing home deaths during the Covid-19 outbreak, which found that his administration undercounted by about 50 percent the deaths of nursing home residents. Additionally, James is investigating whether Cuomo used official resources for the writing and roll out of his book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo has denied allegations of touching anyone inappropriately but released a statement in February acknowledging that some of his workplace remarks “”may have been insensitive or too personal.” The statement said he was “truly sorry” to those who might have “misinterpreted (the remarks) as an unwanted flirtation.”
The backlash has included New York’s Democratic legislature, where lawmakers have revoked some of Cuomo’s temporary emergency powers and have launched an impeachment probe.
The allegations against Cuomo ramped up earlier this year when, in February, a former aide took her account of uncomfortable interactions with the governor to The New York Times. That aide, Charlotte Bennett, alleged that Cuomo had asked her questions about her sex life during a June 2020 conversation in his office in the state Capitol. She told the newspaper that she interpreted Cuomo’s comments to be “clear overtures to a sexual relationship.”
Another ex-aide, Lindsey Boylan, came forward with allegations against Cuomo of her own, claiming in a February Medium post that he had engaged in inappropriate gestures, including an unwanted kiss.
Cuomo was questioned by investigators from the attorney general’s office for over 11 hours last month.
This story has been updated with Cuomo’s response.