What to Know
- Andrew Cuomo announced he will resign as New York's 56th governor, bowing to political and public pressure over sex harassment allegations made by 11 women that the AG's report corroborated
- He's the ninth NY governor in history to resign, though just one of three to step aside amid allegations of misconduct; Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul will become the first woman to govern New York in 14 days
- Cuomo steadfastly denies any wrongdoing in connection with the sex scandal and apologized again to any women he may have inadvertently offended by his behavior
An embattled Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will resign as governor of New York in two weeks, even as he again denied committing sexual harassment and apologized to any women his actions may have offended.
The words ultimately came after 10 minutes of condemning last week's attorney general independent report as politically motivated and rife with mistruths. The resignation played out almost as a casual afterthought to another denial from a man desperate to retain his COVID-time title as America's hero.
But the words came.
Get Tri-state area news and weather forecasts to your inbox. Sign up for NBC New York newsletters.
"Government really needs to function today. Government needs to perform. It is a matter of life and death government operations and wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. I cannot be the cause of that,'" the three-term Democrat said. "Given the circumstances the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing."
"Thank you for the honor of serving you. it has been the honor of my lifetime," he added.
Cuomo has denied the most serious allegations against him and acknowledged Tuesday that his "instinct is to fight." Even as he announced he would resign from office, the governor continued to defend himself from what he said were “unfair" and “untruthful" sexual harassment allegations.
But he said the impeachment process would take months and consume resources that should go toward "managing COVID, guarding against the delta variant, reopening upstate, fighting gun violence and saving New York City."
Cuomo said that he would step down in 14 days, without explaining why he wanted such a window. Spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said the 14 day window will "ensure an orderly transition at this critical time where the key decisions still remain on COVID, the delta variant and other significant challenges facing the state."
The announcement comes exactly a week to the day the bombshell report was released and as longtime Cuomo backers have distanced themselves en masse. The resignation avoids him the potential embarrassment of becoming the second New York governor in history to be impeached and comes a day after the state Assembly judiciary committee convened to discuss a timeline for that probe.
Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has spent nearly two decades in New York politics, will be the 57th governor of New York and the first woman at the helm. Cuomo praised her as "smart and competent" in announcing his resignation and said the transition should be seamless as far as managing COVID and other crises.
Hochul last week described Cuomo's behavior documented in the AG's report as "repulsive" and "unlawful" and said she believed the women who accused him. The two reportedly hadn't communicated with each other for months amid the probe.
Hochul will hold her first press conference since Cuomo's announcement to resign Wednesday at 2 p.m. from the state capitol. A spokesperson tells tole the AP that New York state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is set to take on the duties of lieutenant governor once Hochul becomes governor.
Cuomo Resigns as NY Governor
The abrupt announcement marked the final words of a roughly 15-minute speech by Cuomo in which he again offered a lengthy series of apologies to any women he inadvertently offended, insisted that wasn't his intent, and rebuffed the AG report.
"The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw and reacted to it. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false," the Democrat said. "The most serious allegations made against me had no credible factual basis in the report and there is a difference between alleged improper conduct and concluding sexual harassment."
"This is not to say there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize," Cuomo added, rattling off a series of examples around hugging and kissing that he thought reflected him "being nice."
For nearly a full hour prior, his outside counsel Rita Glavin engaged in a detailed effort to lay out the alleged biases and "errors" within the AG's report while discrediting both some of the accusers and the independent investigators. She and Cuomo both likened the independent report to a smear campaign and insisted the governor never did anything wrong. See the entire press conference below.
Their statements Tuesday reflected a governor clinging to the matter of intention with the same insistence as he did months ago and urging people to await the findings of the independent review before casting judgment. At the time, that earned him a reprieve from then-backers like President Joe Biden and others.
Then the report came out, and any support the governor retained went with it.
Asked about Cuomo's resignation on Tuesday, Biden described the entirety of the situation as "sad."
"He's done a hell of a job. He's done a hell of a job -- both on everything from access to voting to infrastructure and a whole range of things," the president said. "That's why it's so sad."
Trusted longtime advisers and supporters have backed away from Cuomo in a domino-like cascade in recent days -- and both the internal and external fallout was only expected to further intensify the longer he resisted demands to leave office.
Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa, named repeatedly in the attorney general's report for allegedly trying to contain the scandal as it expanded, resigned from her longtime post by the governor's side the night before the accuser's TV interview. Read her full 271-word resignation letter here.
A spokesperson for Cuomo confirmed Tuesday evening that DeRosa is going to remain in the Cuomo administration for his remaining 14 days.
Time's Up Chairwoman Roberta Kaplan resigned her post Monday over ties to Cuomo, while a major union representing New York State Police added its name to the chorus of calls for his resignation. A state trooper who was on Cuomo's protective detail is among the 11 women the AG found he allegedly harassed.
Cuomo's Albany and Manhattan offices have been besieged by protests the last few days, many with signs reading, "RESIGN OR IMPEACH" or "CUOMO IS GUILTY."
Most registered New York voters now agree, whether Democrat or Republican, that the governor should step down or face impeachment, according to a recent poll.
Nearly two-thirds of the state legislative body had said they favored an impeachment trial if he wouldn't resign. An initial judiciary committee session was held Monday in which members laid out their anticipated timeline for the investigation. All of that appears to be a moot point now.
Cuomo Under Fire
Had the impeachment effort moved forward and the Legislature voted to oust him, Cuomo would've been only the second New York governor in history to be impeached. William Sulzer was the only other in 1913.
Cuomo has more company on the resignation front -- he's the ninth governor of New York to resign since 1817, though one of just three who stepped down following allegations of misconduct. Eliot Spitzer was the most recent in 2008.
Two local prosecutors are saying they will continue investigations into possible criminal actions by Cuomo.
In Albany, a former aide to the governor, Brittany Commisso, filed a criminal complaint last week. She has said Cuomo sexually harassed her when he hugged, kissed and touched her inappropriately. A spokesperson for the Albany County district attorney’s office, Cecilia Walsh, said, the office’s "inquiry into criminal conduct in our jurisdiction remains open and pending."
In Nassau County, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said their investigation is continuing. It was not immediately clear how the district attorneys of Manhattan, Westchester County and Oswego County intended to proceed. Those prosecutors previously have said they were looking into the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
The governor also still faces ongoing investigations into the potential misuse of state resources for his pandemic book and questions about the nursing home scandal.
The publisher of Cuomo’s book on his handling of the coronavirus, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” had announced earlier this year that it halted promotion as Cuomo faced allegations of his treatment of women and that aides manipulated nursing home data. On Tuesday, Crown reaffirmed its decision and said that it would no longer print hardcovers of the book, which came out last fall, or issue a paperback edition.
Cuomo had faced criticism from the time he announced his book, in August 2020, with many noting he was praising himself for a job that had yet to be completed.
Officials and accusers alike praised the news of Cuomo's resignation as the right, necessary step for the Queens-born governor whose aspirations of a fourth term -- or higher elected office -- have now evaporated.
"From the beginning, I simply asked that the governor stop his abusive behavior,” Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo publicly of harassment and who was the subject of Glavin's scorn Tuesday, tweeted. “It became abundantly clear he was unable to do that, instead attacking and blaming victims until the end.”
“Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories," added New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, often at odds with Cuomo, in a statement. "It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”
His meteoric rise into the national headlines earlier last year, when New York was the epicenter of the U.S. COVID crisis and his daily press briefings were must-watch TV, will likely be forever overshadowed by his now equally meteoric fall.
Cuomo assumed the office of governor on Jan. 1, 2011, succeeding David Paterson. Prior to that, he served as New York's attorney general, a position in which he was known for aggressively fighting government corruption.
Earlier in his career, Cuomo served as HUD secretary in Bill Clinton's administration. At least one of the accusations leveled publicly against him in recent weeks dates back to that time.
Andrew Cuomo's Political Career in Photos
Cuomo has been divorced since 2005 from author and activist Kerry Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family, and was romantically involved up until 2019 with TV lifestyle personality Sandra Lee.
He has three adult daughters and appealed to them directly as he announced plans Tuesday to step down.
“I want them to know, from the bottom of my heart: I never did, and I never would, intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated," he said. "Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized. And he learned from it. And that’s what life is all about.”