Hours after one Democrat predicted a massive political storm would hit Albany, a report from state Attorney General Letitia James said a months-long investigation has concluded that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.
“I think, truly, we’re about to hit the gale force winds of Albany, and it’ll be something to behold,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman said Monday of the sexual harassment and sexual misconduct investigation of the Democratic governor, according to The New York Times.
On Tuesday, the storm broke.
The executive summary of the 165-page report compiled by James’ investigators said they “conclude that the Governor engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York State law.”
“Specifically, we find that the Governor sexually harassed a number of current and former New York State employees by, among other things, engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women. Our investigation revealed that the Governor’s sexually harassing behavior was not limited to members of his own staff, but extended to other State employees, including a State Trooper on his protective detail and members of the public,” the report said.
“We also conclude that the Executive Chamber’s culture — one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments — contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist. That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the Executive Chamber has responded to allegations of harassment,” it said.
The report cited several cases that have been publicized, including those involving former aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett as well as Anna Ruch, who disseminated a photo of her reaction to a kiss from Cuomo at a wedding reception.
The report covers 11 women. All of those accusing Cuomo were found to be credible.
“Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents,” prosecutor Joon Kim said Tuesday, according to the Times. “They were part of a pattern.”
“We found all 11 women to be credible,” attorney Anne Clark said. “There was corroboration to various degrees.”
On July 17, Cuomo underwent 11 hours of videotaped interviews by Kim, a former prosecutor, and Clark, an employment lawyer, who were appointed by James to lead the investigation into allegations against Cuomo.
Although the Times noted that the participants are legally barred from disclosing details, it reported, “At more than one point during the lengthy session, Mr. Cuomo confronted Mr. Kim, challenging his fairness and independence as a result of his past investigations into the governor and his allies.”
The Times report indicated that Kim and Clark embarked upon a wide-ranging effort to gather evidence, from interviews with women who say they were groped, maligned, mistreated or harassed by the governor to subpoenas that produced state records including electronic communications among executive office staff.
The report said the investigators honed in on Cuomo’s inner circle of aides who may have dealt with the accusers or crafted a response to the accusations.
The Democrat’s aides attacked the report even before its release.
“The continued press leaks from this investigation provide further evidence about the documented bias of these reviewers,” said Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, according to the Times.
Cuomo, who indicated some sympathy with Bennett in February when she said she felt harassed by Cuomo, has since become strident in his declarations of innocence.
“I’m very eager to get the facts to the people of this state,” the 63-year-old said last week. “I think when they hear the actual facts, what happened, how the situation has been handled, I think they’re going to be shocked. Shocked.”
A spokeswoman for James has pushed back.
“This investigation started at the request of the governor after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment,” Delaney Kempner said. “It is being carried out by independent investigators who have decades of experience. The continued attempts to undermine and politicize this process are dishonest and take away from the courage and bravery displayed by these women.”
Accusations against Cuomo trickled out after Boylan said he sexually harassed her, and they multiplied after Bennett came forward to recount a creepy conversation with the governor. An aide later said she was groped by the governor at the Executive Mansion, an accusation that — if true — could cross the line into criminal charges.
NEW w @jessemckinley: Cuomo aides circulated a letter trashing Lindsey Boylan within days of her tweets in December accusing him of harassment. The idea was for ex staffers, particularly women, to put their names on it. No one would. https://t.co/MGqGdlxGFf
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 16, 2021
When @NYGovCuomo propositioned me for sex, he broke the law. It is very simple: the issue is about his actions, it is not about my feelings. He broke the law (you know, the one he signed). Apologies don’t fix that, and neither do denials. https://t.co/wuQ8eOH9sS
— Charlotte Bennett (@_char_bennett_) May 13, 2021
ICYMI: A @NYGovCuomo aide who accused him of groping her says she’s willing to take a polygraph test and would like him to take one as well. His lawyer and his spokesman have refused to say whether he’s willing. From @Brendan_LyonsTU. https://t.co/YrvNeZW005
— Casey Seiler (@CaseySeiler) August 2, 2021
The impact of the report remains uncertain after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said it alone might not be enough to propel the Assembly committee considering impeaching Cuomo to act against a fellow Democrat.
The bottom line of the Times’ assessment of the broad-based Assembly impeachment efforts was that the “sheer volume of topics suggested that the Assembly’s inquiry may yet provide time to Mr. Cuomo, who most political observers expect will run again next year.”
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