The third-term Democratic governor delivered his farewell speech to New Yorkers Monday, his last day in office after resigning in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. ‘We didn’t always get it quite right but I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that everyday I worked my hardest,’ Cuomo said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his farewell speech to New Yorkers Monday, his last day in office after resigning in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. In his final remarks, the third-term Democratic governor once again tried to undermine the attorney general’s investigation into the accusations against him, touted the progressive causes championed during his tenure while also denouncing more left-leaning politics and policies.
Cuomo, who took office in 2011 and whose father before him served three terms as New York governor, remained defiant in his final speech, attributing the allegations that led to his downfall to “intense political pressure and a media frenzy.” He announced his resignation on Aug. 7, a week after Attorney General Tish James released a damning, 168-page investigative report detailing accusations from 11 women, some of whom said the governor kissed them or groped them without consent, or made unwanted advances and inappropriate comments.
Cuomo, who has admitted to occasionally crossing “personal boundaries” with staffers but repeatedly denied the allegations of groping and assault, compared the AG’s investigation—which his own office authorized—to “a firecracker” that starts a stampede.
“The attorney general report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked. There was a political and media stampede but the truth will come out in time,” he said.
James has defended her office’s independent investigation into Cuomo, saying it was based on interviews with 179 people and more than 74,000 documents, emails, texts, and pictures. A spokesperson for the AG’s office last week brushed off Cuomo’s attacks of the report as “lies, and conspiracy theories.”
Cuomo said in his goodbye speech Monday that his usual “instinct is to fight,” but that he does not want to get in the way of governing. “Prolonging this situation can only cause government paralysis,” he said.
The speech concludes months of public scandal surrounding the governor, who rose to national prominence last year for his daily public briefings during the worst of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Cuomo has been accused of under-counting the state’s COVID-19 nursing home deaths, as well as using state resources to write a memoir in a lucrative book deal.
The State Assembly, which had been investigating those other issues as part of an impeachment inquiry, is expected to release its findings from that probe soon. Several law enforcement jurisdictions are also reportedly looking into the sexual harassment and groping allegations against the governor, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said last week.
In his speech Monday, Cuomo sought to remind voters of his governing accomplishments over the last decade, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, strengthening the state’s gun laws and lowering COVID-19 infection rates. “No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have,” the governor said, before specifically denouncing more left-leaning policy proposals that have gained traction in recent years, like defunding police departments, which he called “dangerous.”
He highlighted major infrastructure projects begun under his tenure, like revamping Penn Station and LaGuardia Airport. “We have developed over the last decade a new paradigm of government in this state, a government that actually works and actually works for people,” he added.
Join me as I deliver a farewell address to New Yorkers. Watch: https://t.co/xJFrYQbESJ— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) August 23, 2021
Could this be the start of an attempted Andrew Cuomo image rehabilitation tour? The governor resigns with more than $18 million still in his political campaign coffers, and the Assembly’s suspension of its impeachment investigation into him prevented a state Senate trial that could have potentially barred Cuomo from holding state office again.
But a former top aide for the governor told news outlets Monday that Cuomo has “no interest” in running for office again. “He is exploring a number of options,” she said, according to reports.
Experts who study political scandals say its not impossible to imagine another Cuomo campaign, someday.
“I don’t see any reason today to conclude that he’ll never have a political career [again],” said Michael Miller, an assistant professor at Barnard who studies political behavior. “Anthony Weiner ran a credible campaign for mayor. Thinking about scandals more broadly, we’ve seen other politicians make comebacks—Mark Sanford comes to mind, from South Carolina.”
Not all disgraced politicians seek office again, of course, Miller notes—Al Franken, a Democrat and former Minnesota senator who resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct, is one example.
“I think in the Democratic Party something like this is probably going to linger and probably going to be damaging for a long time,” Miller said. “But I would never count out a Cuomo.”
State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be inaugurated on Tuesday to replace Cuomo, becoming the state’s first woman to serve as governor. A lawyer from Buffalo in her second term as lieutenant governor, Hochul has sought in her public remarks so far to distance herself from the outgoing, scandal-scarred Cuomo.
“It’s very clear that the governor and I have not been close,” Hochul said in a press conference earlier this month, promising a different office culture than her predecessor. “No one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Stetson University, said restoring the public’s trust in government will be important following Cuomo’s departure.
“I always worry about the public’s perception of everyone in power being corrupt, or everyone in power being on the take, or everyone in power being immoral. There are so many good public servants out there, whether elected or appointed,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
“I think the real tragedy of a figure like Cuomo is that he can tarnish the good name of so many people who actually go to work every day for the public good. And it tarnishes the image of government itself,” she added. “When a figure like Cuomo falls apart of his own doing, it can give voters—can leave a bad taste in their mouth, and they can sort of turn away from the democratic process.”
Read more on this:
- Andrew Cuomo, in Final Days as NY’s Governor, Isn’t Leaving Quietly
- State Assembly to Suspend Cuomo Impeachment Inquiry Following Governor’s Resignation
- Future Gov. Kathy Hochul Pledges New Direction After Cuomo Resigns: ‘I’m Ready’
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Resign Following Sexual Harassment Allegations
- ‘A Culture of Fear and Flirtation’: Andrew Cuomo Sexually Harassed Multiple Women, A.G. Investigation Finds