On Tuesday, New York learned of a damning report by Attorney General Letitia James that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, long regarded as a bully, sexually harassed 11 women and maintained an executive office rife with fear and intimidation.
In the wake of this report, two things must happen now: if Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, doesn’t resign, the Legislature must immediately begin impeachment proceedings to remove him from office.
He is unfit to be the governor of New York State. The 165-page report could not be clearer on this point.
We won’t go into any great detail on the governor’s response to the report, when he told reporters that “the facts are much different from what has been portrayed,” insisting that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”
This shows he can’t come to terms with his own behavior, or perhaps he thinks he can ride out this storm with a stream of denials and run for another term. There should not only not be another term; this one should end with an impeachment and his removal from office if he refuses to step down himself.
The idea that he should be forced out if he won’t resign doesn’t cover what Ms. James’ report also makes clear: that Cuomo’s behavior towards the women, and the hostile, aggressive workplace he maintained, violates state and federal law.
With the release of the report, Ms. James said her work is completed, but that doesn’t stop a law enforcement agency from picking it up from there and filing charges.
So how bad are the findings? Awful. Examples: Cuomo embraced an assistant in his office and reached under her blouse to grope her breast. He grabbed the buttocks of a state employee and made the kind of statements to another young female assistant that might have come from a gropey, immature teenager and not the state’s 63-year-old governor.
For other examples, read the report, which makes clear that Ms. James and the two outside attorneys she hired for the investigation believe the 11 women who bravely stepped up and made these charges, fully anticipating the hostile blowback they would surely receive. One of the outside attorneys, Joon Kim, said the women “suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts.”
The governor’s office culture was demeaning, degrading and fully toxic – and others on his executive staff knew it, saw what was happening and took steps to protect him. They covered up potential crimes, in other words.
The report concludes that Cuomo and his aides undermined the women who came forward and maneuvered to undercut the investigation. Those who participated in this should be investigated and possibly prosecuted; they certainly should not be working in state government.
Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, asked for one accuser’s personnel file, which was then disseminated to several reporters in an effort to smear her. That’s political retaliation and something straight out of the dirty tricks handbook.
Throw in Chris Cuomo of CNN – a supposed journalist – helping his brother draft a statement to address the allegations, and participating in calls with his brother’s advisors, and everything in this sorry episode in state history is thoroughly nauseating.
We as a state must turn the corner, and that can’t happen if Cuomo remains in office.