State Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into the allegations against Cuomo found that the governor’s actions over the course of seven years “violated multiple state and federal laws, as well as the Executive Chamber’s own written policies.”
This story has been updated since its original publication to include additional information.
State Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Gov. Andrew Cuomo concluded Tuesday, with state investigators saying they substantiated and corroborated “multiple” allegations of sexual harassment from 11 witnesses—including employees in the governor’s office and a New York State trooper—and that Cuomo’s actions violated both state and federal laws, as well as his own office’s policies.
The damning 168-page report is the culmination of a probe that’s been underway since March, following public accusations from several women, including current and former staffers, who said the governor kissed, groped, and made unwanted advances and inappropriate comments to them.
Cuomo on Tuesday once again denied the allegations. The attorney general’s report renewed a chorus of calls from fellow lawmakers pushing for the governor to resign, including President Joe Biden.
“Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of them young women,” James said at a press conference Tuesday. “This investigation has revealed conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government.”
Cuomo and some of his senior staffers also “took actions to retaliate” against at least one of the accusers, a former employee, who came forward with her story, according to James.
“The coexistence in the executive chamber’s culture of fear and flirtation, intimidation and intimacy, abuse and affection, created a work environment ripe for harassment,” said Joon Kim, an investigator working on the AG’s probe.
The investigation will not culminate in criminal charges, James said at a Tuesday morning press conference. “Our work is concluded and the document is now public,” she said. “The matter is civil in nature and does not have any criminal consequences.”
James declined to speculate on whether law enforcement agencies would pursue further action against the governor. A police report related to one alleged groping incident has been filed in Albany, investigators added, and the Albany County District Attorney’s office confirmed to the New York Times on Tuesday that it’s conducting a criminal investigation into Cuomo.
In an apparently pre-taped response to the just-published report on Tuesday afternoon, the governor once again denied any inappropriate behavior and announced that he and his attorney had responded specifically to each allegation in a post to his website.
“The facts are much different that what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said in the Tuesday tape. “Please take the time to read the facts and decide for yourself.”
Governor Cuomo Responds to Independent Reviewer Report: https://t.co/sgPuPEDXRU— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 3, 2021
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made any inappropriate sexual advances,” he added. “That is just not who I am, and who I’ve ever been.”
The governor also announced that he was rolling out a new sexual harassment training program for state employees—himself included. He later took shots at “those who are using this to score political points,” though it was not immediately clear who he was referring to.
“Today we are living in a super-heated, if not toxic political environment,” he said. “That shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Politics and bias are interwoven in this entire situation.”
The incidents detailed in James’ investigative report include the following:
- Cuomo allegedly harassed a state trooper assigned to his protective detail “on a number of occasions,” including by “running his hand across her stomach, from her belly button to her right hip, while she held a door open for him at an event, ” kissing her on the cheek in front of another Trooper and asking to kiss her in yet another instance. Cuomo is also accused of making sexually suggestive comments to the state trooper, like asking her why she wanted to get married “when marriage means ‘your sex drive goes down.’”
- A doctor who performed a COVID-19 test on the governor, in her capacity as a state employee, also reported that he made sexually suggestive comments to her.
- After former Manhattan Borough President candidate Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide, publicly accused him of sexual harassment, Cuomo and his staffers “actively engaged in an effort to discredit her, including by disseminating to the press confidential internal documents that painted her in a negative light and circulating among a group of current and former Executive Chamber employees (although not ultimately publishing) a proposed op-ed or letter disparaging Ms. Boylan that the Governor personally participated in drafting.”
- The governor’s office “pressured former employees to surreptitiously record telephone conversations with” some of Cuomo’s accusers, investigators found, “potentially in the hopes of obtaining additional information to use against any women who might speak out.” The governor’s aides were also found to have not reported accusations of harassment, even when the behavior prompted high-ranking officials and even the governor’s special counsel “to implement an informal protocol to try to protect the Governor from being alone with young women on the Executive Chamber staff.”
- One woman, who worked as an aide in the executive chamber from 2013 to 2015, told investigators: “In his office the rules were different. It was just, you should view it as a compliment if the Governor finds you aesthetically pleasing enough, if he finds you interesting enough to ask questions like that. And so even though it was strange and uncomfortable and technically not permissible in a typical workplace environment, I was in this mindset that it was the twilight zone and . . . the typical rules did not apply.”
Cuomo’s conduct was nourished by a culture that rewarded bullying, current and former staffer members told investigators. Big tantrums, yelling, and humiliation were commonplace in the office, aides said, all contributing to a hostile work environment.
Evidence of this was reflected even in communications between members of Cuomo’s own team, according to the report.
“Hopefully when this is all done people will realize the culture—even outside the sexual harassment stuff—is not something you can get away with . . . you can’t berate and terrify people 24/7,” one senior staffer said in a March 2021 text message to another staff member.
In response, Cuomo’s attorney released an 85-page rebuttal addressing many of the women’s accusations point-by-point and claiming James’ investigation “willfully ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative they have sought to weave form the outset.”
Cuomo “flatly denies” the most disturbing incidents described in James’ report, including that he kissed Boylan—whose assertions his lawyer paints as politically-motivated—and that he groped an unnamed staffer’s breast without both women’s consent (“this simply did not happen,” the governor’s response report says.)
The governor admitted to other behavior, including that he kissed an executive assistant on the forehead, called female staffers “sweetheart” and “bella” and that he “he occasionally makes comments about employees’ appearance.”
In response to complaints of unwanted touching by several women who say the governor touched their faces or backs, or greeted them with kisses on the cheek, his attorney said Cuomo did not remember some of those specific instances but described them as “consistent with his practice of embracing males and females alike when taking pictures,” and that he “always intended his customary embraces to show respect or warmth.” Cuomo’s pre-taped press conference Tuesday included a series of photos of him hugging or kissing celebrities and other elected officials.
“The Governor strives to foster a strong sense of collegiality within his team,” his attorney’s statement reads.
City and state lawmakers, many of whom have been pushing for Cuomo to resign since the allegations against him first surfaced months ago, reiterated those calls on Tuesday, including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Cuomo ally, said the lawmaking body—which has been conducting it’s own impeachment investigation into the governor since March—would review the “disturbing” 168-page report.
“We will have more to say in the very near future,” he added.