New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resisted calls to resign for months after sexual harassment allegations began publicly emerging against him from former aides and other state employees – then finally caved Tuesday.
The women who leveled them are now reacting to his decision to step down a week after the state attorney general released the findings of an investigation into claims from 11 women. Cuomo will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in two weeks.
In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo addresses the media in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
“From the beginning, I simply asked that the Governor stop his abusive behavior,” said Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to the governor and the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of harassment. “It became abundantly clear he was unable to do that, instead attacking and blaming victims until the end. It is a tragedy that so many stood by and watched these abuses happen.”
In a televised appearance Tuesday, in which he announced his resignation, Cuomo said the push for his ouster was “unfair and untruthful.”
“I am a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated,” he said.
Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett and Anna Ruch
The governor has denied allegations of wrongdoing, but his accusers see the AG report as an affirmation of their case.
“I am thankful for the Attorney General, the investigators and all those who have pursued the truth despite intimidation and threats of retaliation,” Boylan said. “Most importantly, I am in awe of the strength of the other women who risked everything to come forward. My hope always has been that this will make it safer for other women to report their own harassment and abuse. I will continue the fight to make that happen.”
Debra Katz, an attorney for Charlotte Bennett, praised the investigators and said her client came forward earlier this year after the governor’s “well-oiled political machine” attempted to discredit and smear Boylan.
“As is often the case, courage begets courage,” she said in a lengthy statement. “Soon, other women came forward to support Lindsey and Charlotte in the face of the Governor’s continuing denials, even as evidence mounted against him.”
Katz continued, “We are humbled by Charlotte’s and the other complainants’ remarkable courage in coming forward. They made that extraordinary personal and professional sacrifice because they knew what it was like to have careers derailed and relationships destroyed by a single powerful individual. They knew the pain and indignity of being sexually propositioned and groped. And critically, they wanted to make sure no other women endured the same.”
Shortly after the governor’s announcement, Ana Liss, another Cuomo accuser, tweeted a gif showing NeNe from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” saying “Go home wig, Goodbye wig. GO AWAY. BYE WIG.”
Mariann Wang, an attorney for Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, said Cuomo’s resignation left her clients feeling “vindicated and relieved.”
His efforts, through his paid attorney, over the last few days, to gaslight and attack the brave women who came forward, apparently served no purpose,” she said in a statement. “Ms. McGrath and Ms. Limmiatis remain grateful that their voices and experiences were heard and substantiated by the AG’s investigators, and feel solidarity with all women who continue to be abused by men in power. At least today, one of them has faced some consequences.”
Elias Farah, a member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, which is fighting to end abusive behavior in Albany, said the governor’s apology was “disingenuous” and that staying on the job for another two weeks is “ridiculous.”
“This isn’t like a job where you get to put in your two weeks’ notice,” he said. “This is like getting fired. You should be leaving. When you resign, you leave.”
“I heard him repeatedly bring up the fact that he thought this was political, and he thought this was people coming after him,” Farah said. “But the victims aren’t political in this situation, so it’s really sad for him to try to use this as somebody attacking him politically when I don’t think any of the victims were politically motivated.”