What to Know
- Two more female former aides to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo alleged Saturday that he was physically inappropriate with them
- Ana Liss told the Wall Street Journal he touched her back and kissed her hand, and Karen Hinton told both News 4 and the Washington Post he embraced her in a dimly lit hotel room
- In the last two weeks at least five women have publicly alleged Cuomo misbehaved with them; dozens of fellow Democrats are now calling for his resignation
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his position clear on Sunday saying he would not resign his post following two new allegations published the night before of inappropriate conduct with former female staffers.
"There is no way I resign. Let's do the attorney general's investigation, let's get the findings and then let's go from there," Cuomo said in a Sunday conference call. ""I was elected by the people of the state, I wasn't elected by politicians. I'm not going to resign because of allegations."
In addition to the state attorney general's investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made by former aides, a growing number of state lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle say the governor must resign from his post. So far, at least five women in the past two weeks have come forward accusing the governor of inappropriate physical and verbal behavior.
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It's behavior the governor has flatly denied while offering an apology to anyone who interpreted his actions as "unwanted flirtation." Of the latest allegations made by Karen Hinton, once one of Cuomo's top aides and consultants in his days as HUD secretary, the governor says they are "not true."
"Every woman has a right to come forward, that's true. But the truth also matters and what she says is not true. She has been a long-time political adversary of mine," Cuomo said Sunday.
Hinton alleges that Cuomo hugged her in an "inappropriate" and "unethical" embrace in a California hotel rooms 21 years ago. She says the then-Cabinet member made a pass at her during a meeting that was supposed to be about a news conference. She says Cuomo hugged her – and she says she could physically feel he was sexually aroused.
"He started asking me personal questions. I was uncomfortable with that conversation. So I stood up to leave and he walked across from his couch and embraced me intimately. It was not just a hug. It was an intimate embrace. I pulled away. He brought me back. I pulled away again and I said 'look I need some sleep, I am going,'" Hinton told News 4 in her first TV interview about the incident.
"It was inappropriate. We both were married. I worked for him and it was too much to make it so personal and intimate," she said.
New York leaders have been divided on what should come next, but support behind the attorney general's investigation remains unanimous. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking just hours before Cuomo's Sunday call, said the allegations were "deeply troubling" and "in the very capable hands" of the State Attorney General Tish James.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins lent her voice to calls for Cuomo's resignation on Sunday, days after saying she would make such a demand if another credible allegation came to light.
"Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project," she said. "New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign."
The Associated Press reported on a brief conversation before Cuomo's afternoon press call where he told Stewart-Cousins the legislature would have to impeach him if they want him out of office, according to a person briefed by someone on the call. The AP gave the person anonymity because the call was meant to be private.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whose chamber would initiate any possible impeachment proceedings against Cuomo, had previously thrown his support behind the calls for an independent investigation now being launched by the attorney general. But on Sunday, Heastie questioned the governor's ability to lead under such turmoil saying it was time for the governor to "seriously consider" his position.
"I'm not distracted by it and I don't think anyone should be distracted by it either," Cuomo said of the allegations of sexual harassment. But his words come in direct conflict with his past statements, especially one released in 2018 when he called on then Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to resign over public allegations of assault.
Already more than 25 Democrats at all levels of government have called on Cuomo to resign -- a stunning turn for someone who just a few months ago was considered a possible frontrunner for the party's presidential nomination in 2024.
The Wall Street Journal reported that according to Ana Liss, a policy and operations aide from 2013 to 2015, Cuomo asked if she had a boyfriend, called her "sweetheart," touched her lower back and once kissed her hand as she rose from a desk.
Liss told the paper it was part of a pattern of behavior that she felt demeaned her achievements simply because she was a woman.
Cuomo also directly addressed the statements published Saturday from Liss: "That's my way of doing friendly banter. I take pictures with people at ceremonial events. We take pictures with people. If the question is going to be how many people did you take pictures with... but I never meant to make anyone feel unwelcome in any way. If customs change, then I'll change the customs and behaviors."
The paper said it spoke to more than 30 current or former Cuomo officials who described an incredibly intense working environment, one that some characterized as "toxic."
The Journal story came just minutes after a separate story from the Washington Post, which also cited extensive interviews with more than 20 former Cuomo staffers on what was again alleged to be a "toxic" workplace, and one where young women were purportedly asked routinely about their dating lives.
Cuomo's office released a statement on the Post story as well, referring specifically to the allegations about the workplace culture.
"The people of this state elected the Governor to represent them four times during the last 14 years and they know he works day and night for them. There is no secret these are tough jobs, and the work is demanding, but we have a top tier team with many employees who have been here for years, and many others who have left and returned. The Governor is direct with employees if their work is sub-par because the people of New York deserve nothing short of excellence," it said.
Beyond James' probe, which is in its earliest days, federal prosecutors are also looking at the state's handling of data on nursing home COVID deaths. Reports this week suggested Cuomo's closest aides removed data from a report last summer that would have indicated nursing home deaths were 50 percent higher than the governor's office said.
Cuomo's spokespeople have denied any wrongdoing in that specific instance, or in general with the handling of nursing homes.