Editor’s note: This article contains discussion of sexual harassment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) resigned Tuesday afternoon, a week after an attorney general’s investigation found that the governor sexually harassed 11 women in his office.
Once the resignation goes into effect in 14 days, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will become the first woman to serve as governor of New York State.
In his resignation statement, Cuomo addressed the allegations in the attorney general report, calling them “false” and saying he takes full responsibility for his actions.
“This is not to say that there are not 11 women I truly offended. There are. And for that, I deeply, deeply apologize,” Cuomo, the three-term Democrat, said in his announcement.
The resignation announcement comes two days after Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa ’04 MPA ’09 resigned from her role as secretary to the governor late Sunday, stating that the last few years have been “emotionally and mentally trying.”
DeRosa, who was appointed for the role in 2017, was often described as Cuomo’s right-hand enforcer and was at the forefront of New York’s coronavirus response. She has defended the governor even as he faced scandal in the past when in late January, Cuomo’s administration had been revealed to have undercounted the COVID death toll in New York nursing homes.
As pressure mounted from New York State officials for the governor to resign, the recent attorney general report gained attention from Democrat officials in Washington D.C. with President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand all calling for the governor to resign.
“It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office,” said State State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement on Aug. 3.
While the governor initially rejected calls for resignation, he said in his Tuesday resignation announcement that he must “step aside and let [the] government get back to governing. And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”
The report that spurred the resignation found that the governor sexually harassed 11 women and fostered a “hostile work environment for women,” according to State Attorney General Letitia James. The report claims that the governor’s actions violated multiple federal and state laws.
DeRosa is a key player in this scandal, as the report details how she sought to discredit Lindsey Boylan, one of the governor’s early accusers, by aiding in efforts to write and release a letter disparaging Boylan’s character.
While the letter was never published, the attorney general report details how the governor’s executive chamber staff made comments on early drafts and DeRosa specifically circulated the document and sought signatures from advisers. DeRosa has not made any public statements regarding the report.
Boylan now plans to sue “the governor and his co-conspirators” for the retaliatory actions described in the report, according to a statement given to ABC News by her attorney Jill Basinger.
Brittany Commisso, a current staffer at the governor’s office, has also filed a criminal complaint against the governor. Commisso’s attorney told CNN on Monday that they do not plan to drop those charges even if the governor resigns.
Following months of scandal, impeachment proceedings continue to loom as Monday morning, the State Assembly’s judiciary committee convened to discuss preparing for an impeachment proceeding — the assembly began an impeachment investigation following the nursing home scandal.
The impeachment proceedings, which had support from the Assembly Democratic majority, would make Cuomo the second governor in New York history to be impeached. If Cuomo is impeached and convicted, even after his resignation, he will be barred from running for statewide office.
New York Assembly Judiciary chair Charles Lavine outlined a timeline for the impeachment process in a press hearing Monday afternoon. Lavine said that after Aug. 23, the committee will hold a public hearing, and will then decide whether to move forward with impeachment. Lavine said that he expects the process to be concluded “very soon.”
The committee has not stated whether they will continue with impeachment proceedings following the resignation, saying that if Cuomo is out of office, “impeachment itself is going to be moot.” The committee is set to meet on Monday, Aug. 16.
The resignations from the top state office come after DeRosa had been a central figure in the nursing home scandal, after a call with state Democratic lawmakers was leaked, where she revealed that the administration had intentionally withheld the true COVID-19 death count of thousands of nursing home residents.
At the time, Cuomo was facing calls to remove the governor’s emergency powers, which he was granted at the beginning of the pandemic to respond to the crisis. The state senate voted to repeal those powers on March 5.