Cuomo’s resignation: Shock to many, relief to some, overdue to others
By Jeffery C. Mays
On Tuesday morning, it seemed that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York might be preparing to dig in for a fight as he faced the prospect of impeachment and criminal investigations into accusations of sexual harassment.
One of his lawyers, Rita Glavin, appeared on a video feed at about 11 a.m. and tried to poke holes in a report from the state attorney general that found Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women, many of them current or former state employees.
Just before noon, after Glavin finished speaking, Cuomo began a live broadcast in which he attributed his behavior to a failure to understand “generational and cultural shifts” and apologized for any offense he might have caused. It was only then that he said his problems had become too much of a distraction and that he would resign in two weeks.
Cuomo’s decision ricocheted quickly across social media, unleashing a mixture of relief, surprise and cries of victory for women who have been subjected to mistreatment in the workplace.
From Long Island to Washington, New Yorkers and others applauded Cuomo’s decision while also offering encouraging words to the women who had come forward to describe in detail how they said Cuomo had behaved.
Many people also expressed support for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will succeed Cuomo and be the first woman to serve as New York’s governor.
“I felt it was a wake-up call to men across the country to treat women with respect and to treat them as professionals,” said Karen Hinton, who has accused Cuomo of touching her inappropriately when he was federal housing secretary and she was a consultant working for him. (He has denied her accusation, which was not a focus of the attorney general’s inquiry.)
“It was also an empowering call for women to stand up and speak out,” she added.
The response from most elected officials was, generally, one of relief. With the state Assembly preparing for impeachment hearings, there was a growing fear that Cuomo — increasingly isolated, yet defiant — would continue to fight the accusations in hopes of saving his political future.
At the White House, President Joe Biden, a friend and political ally of Cuomo’s who nevertheless called for the governor to resign after the attorney general’s findings were released, said, “I respect the governor’s decision.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has been accused by Glavin of conducting an unfair investigation, said the resignation “closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice.”
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer focused their remarks on the “brave” women who had cooperated with investigators after accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment.
“That was not an easy thing to do and now we can turn to the important work of helping our state recover from COVID and the economic collapse,” said Gillibrand, who, like Schumer, praised Hochul.
“I have full confidence that Lt. Gov. Hochul will establish a professional and capable administration,” said Schumer, the Senate majority leader.
Some state lawmakers who were prepared to force Cuomo out of office through impeachment were surprised by his decision to resign. Others did not believe the governor’s problems would be resolved by his decision to step down. It was unclear Tuesday whether the Assembly would proceed with its impeachment inquiry; members said they would convene soon to discuss their next steps.
“Never thought I’d see this day,” state Sen. Jabari Brisport, D-Brooklyn, wrote on Twitter.
Brisport said he had tuned in to the remarks by Cuomo and Glavin on Tuesday expecting to hear the governor simply repeat his earlier denials of acting inappropriately.
“I never thought that he would resign,” Brisport said in an interview. “I thought he was too proud and had too much money in his account that impeachment would be the only way we would see the end of Gov. Cuomo.”
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, a Democrat who represents parts of lower Manhattan, called Cuomo’s speech “horrific” because she felt he “continued to gaslight the women he hurt.” The investigation into the governor’s actions should continue, she said.
“I hope that we will continue our investigation and still move to impeach,” she said.
Despite Cuomo’s downfall, he received a measure of praise from some elected officials and members of the public. Many people said he had provided strong leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, though his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths amid the outbreak has come under scrutiny.
James thanked Cuomo for his “contributions to our state” while U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens and Long Island and is considering a run for governor next year, said it was” imperative that our next governor continue the positive achievements of the Cuomo administration.”
Biden also lauded Cuomo’s performance as governor.
“He’s done a hell of a job,” Biden said. “Both on everything from access to voting to infrastructure, the whole range of things. That’s why it’s so sad.”
Asked about complimenting Cuomo’s record in light of the sexual harassment allegations, Biden said, “The question is ‘Did he do a good job on infrastructure?’ That was the question. He did.”
Tanya Wilson of Jamaica, Queens, agreed that Cuomo had done a good job running the state.
“He did great during COVID,” Wilson, a 61-year-old retiree, said. “I still like him after all this time because everybody likes him.”
Karishma Rao, 32, a nurse who lives in Williston Park, on Long Island, said she appreciated Cuomo, but she also felt that he had let New Yorkers down.
“As a nurse and as a woman, I respect what he did during the whole pandemic,” said Rao, adding that she like watching Cuomo’s televised briefings during the outbreak. “So I was disappointed, of course. You always want to believe the victims.”