New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he will resign, relinquishing under extraordinary pressure his decade-long grip on power and heading off a potential impeachment by New York's Democratic-led legislature a week after the release of a report by the state attorney general that found he had sexually harassed 11 women.
"Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing," Cuomo said in remarks from New York City. "Therefore that's what I'll do."
The son of another three-term governor, the New York Democrat indicated his announcement would take effect in two weeks. He will hand over the reins to his deputy of seven years, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native who is now poised to become the state's first female governor. Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will replace Hochul — meaning the state's three highest offices will all be held, at least until Hochul appoints her own replacement, by women.
In the seven days since New York state Attorney General Letitia James made her report public, Cuomo faced new and more adamant calls to step down from both state and national Democrats. He initially pushed back, seeking more time, against the advice of trusted aides but ultimately relented and decided to resign before state lawmakers could begin a process that would likely have made him the first New York governor to be impeached in more than a century.
The announcement capped a remarkable fall for the governor, who was lauded for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 only to see his administration swallowed up in scandal — over his alleged sexual misbehavior, the underreporting of nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus and his potential abuse of public resources as he wrote a book last year about the pandemic in New York.
As his handling of the pandemic came under increasing scrutiny, including through an ongoing federal inquiry, a series of reports about his personal behavior left him politically stricken. Even now, as he prepares to leave office, Cuomo could potentially face criminal charges related to the allegations against him. He is also being sued by one his accusers, former aide Lindsey Boylan.
Cuomo has denied all of the allegations, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged that some of his behavior made others uncomfortable.
He continued to skirt the line between apology and excuses during his remarks on Tuesday, thanking the women who came forward with "sincere" complaints, but — as he did earlier this year — he insisted that he was, politically, the victim of evolving social norms.
"In my mind, I've never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn't realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn," Cuomo said. "There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn't fully appreciate. And I should have — no excuses."