“The best way I can help is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” the Democratic governor said.
Cuomo, the son of another three-term governor, said his announcement would take effect in two weeks, when he will hand over the reins to his deputy, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In the seven days since New York state Attorney General Letitia James made her report public, Cuomo faced new and more adamant calls to step down from state and national Democrats alike. He initially pushed back, seeking more time, but ultimately relented and decided to resign before state lawmakers could begin a process that would likely have led to his impeachment and removal from office.
The announcement capped a remarkable fall for the governor, who was lauded for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, only to see his administration swallowed up in scandal — over his alleged sexual misbehavior, the underreporting of nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus and his potential abuse of public resources as he wrote a book last year about the pandemic in New York.
The three-term governor had resisted calls for his ouster since late February, when allegations first piled up.
The state attorney general’s investigation found that Cuomo harassed current and former state employees, as well as a number of women outside of state government. The governor again denied the allegations shortly after the report was released, but lawmakers in and out of New York made their calls for his exit unequivocal in the days since.
“It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as Governor. He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement.
That message was echoed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who reiterated their calls for Cuomo’s resignation in a joint statement following the state attorney general’s findings.
“No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign,” the New York Democrats said.
Cuomo’s stunning fall, after a decade as New York’s most powerful political figure, caps off a remarkable year that saw him rise to national stardom during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York last spring. Lauded for his data-driven, daily press conferences — which cast him in stark contrast to then-President Donald Trump’s chaotic denialism — the governor appeared to be destined for the fourth term that eluded his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo.
But the public perception of his handling of the crisis was damaged in January following the release of a report from the state attorney general that found his office had dramatically undercounted the number of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.
As his handling of the pandemic came under increasing scrutiny, including through an ongoing federal inquiry, a series of reports about his personal behavior left him politically stricken. Cuomo denied all of the allegations, saying he never touched anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged that some of his behavior made others uncomfortable.
His few moments of contrition, though, failed to move his critics, whose ranks grew along with the number of allegations, including one that went back more than two decades to his time leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development under then-President Bill Clinton. A more recent allegation at a wedding in 2019 created the appearance of a pattern of behavior that enraged rivals and largely quieted his small circle of allies.