Campaigns are reacting to a second woman coming forward to accuse the governor of sexual misconduct.
Several New York City mayoral candidates on Saturday night joined the call for an independent investigation of the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power by Governor Cuomo, with at least three of them raising the possibility that the governor might leave office.
The campaigns were reacting to an evening New York Times story that a former staffer, Charlotte Bennett, had accused the governor of inappropriate behavior, just days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused Cuomo of harassing and kissing her. The governor has denied both women’s allegations and called for an independent probe.
Those accusations of sexual misconduct are part of a broader crisis for the governor concerning his handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 crisis, lack of transparency over nursing home deaths and behavior toward other officials like Assemblyman Ron Kim. Another former aide, Karen Hinton, and a journalist, Morgan Pehme, have come forward to accuse the governor of bullying and vindictive behavior.
“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements,” Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday evening.
Dianne Morales—who had called for Cuomo’s impeachment earlier in the week after Boylan came forward—suggested that there is little need to wait.
“We must believe survivors. I stand alongside Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett, Karen Hinton, Morgan Pehme, lawmakers, and everyone who has spoken out against the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of Governor Cuomo. He has left deep scars and trauma on those around him,” Morales, a nonprofit executive, said in a statement. While she backed calls for an independent investigation, Morales reiterated her support for impeachment. “Governor Cuomo should not be allowed to ruin any more lives. It’s time to build a better future for New York City and New York State.”
Comptroller Scott Stringer said the behavior alleged by Boylan and Bennett “is disgusting and absolutely unacceptable” and praised them for coming forward. “I continue to support a thorough and truly independent investigation of the governor’s conduct, and if it supports these serious and credible allegations, Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca had called for Cuomo’s resignation on Feb. 19, amid the spiraling nursing-home saga and before the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced. He reiterated that call this weekend. (Ironically, Menchaca had asked Cuomo to remove Mayor Bill de Blasio from office in June over his handling of COVID-19.)
While Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, did not explicitly mention impeachment or resignation, she did raise the prospect of consequences for the man who, a few months ago, was one of the most popular politicians in the country. Calling for a “fully independent and fully transparent investigation…into the allegations and the workplace environment in Albany.” Garcia added, “We must not only listen, but take allegations seriously and take the appropriate action swiftly.”
Tech entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang also indicated that an investigation was just the beginning of potential action. “Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in any situation should feel empowered to step forward and know they can share the truth of their experiences without fear or retaliation. Albany must show they take all allegations seriously through action,” Yang said. “That starts with an aggressive independent investigation and an acknowledgment that harassment has no place in public service.”
Former mayoral counsel Maya Wiley widened the spotlight to include people around Cuomo. “Senior officials in the governor’s office were aware of his behavior and the only response is a transfer to another wing of the capitol. The failure to protect these women goes beyond the governor and appears to include senior team members that surround him,” Wiley’s statement read. “Their behavior is unprofessional, unethical, and most certainly discriminatory. What happened to these complaints? Why was no further action taken? How many other times has this happened?”
Other candidates confined themselves to a call for investigations.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, tweeted: “To restore faith in our government and get the answers New Yorkers deserve, there must be a truly independent investigation into these troubling reports.”
“Survivors deserved to be heard, especially when they come forward with credible allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. This is even more important when the person being accused of such gross misconduct is an elected representative of the people,” said Shaun Donovan, the former city housing commissioner and Obama administration official. “I will always stand with survivors, and a fully independent investigation of these allegations must be carried out immediately.”
The mounting allegations against Cuomo introduce an unexpected dynamic into the mayor’s race—where some candidates might once have hoped to attract the governor’s support—and, more important, to the political landscape on which the next mayor will operate.
A few weeks ago, it seemed very likely that Cuomo, having had a very tense relationship with de Blasio throughout the mayor’s tenure, would win election to a fourth term in 2022 and remain in power for the majority if not the entirety of the next mayor’s term in office.
Now, should he avoid being forced from office, Cuomo’s ability to stand for or win reelection next year is in some doubt—which also means an uncertain future for Democratic dominance in Albany, where Cuomo’s party now controls all three statewide offices and both houses of the legislature.
Mayoral candidates were not the only ones weighing in on next steps Saturday. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “A truly independent investigation is warranted.” State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said, “We have an independently elected AG for a reason—Attorney General Tish James needs to do her job.”