Report: Cuomo sexually harassed women, oversaw toxic workplace

CUOMO: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo provides a COVID-19 update on Monday, Aug. 2. Don Pollard/Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY, N.Y. (New York Daily News) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversaw a toxic workplace and engaged in predatory behavior as he sexually harassed multiple women, including much younger aides and a state trooper, according to a bombshell report released Tuesday by state Attorney General Leticia James' office.

The damning 165-page report details a pattern of creepy conduct that violated state and federal laws – including unwanted advances, touching of "intimate body parts" without consent and comments that accusers called "deeply humiliating, uncomfortable, offensive, or inappropriate."

Cuomo and his senior staff also fostered a "toxic" workplace that enabled "harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment" and took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for going public with accusations against the 63-year-old Democrat.

"This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law," James said during a briefing at her Manhattan office. "I am grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth. No man – no matter how powerful – can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period."

Many of the 11 accusers in the report and other witnesses described a misogynistic work environment, and the report found that the governor's office did not handle complaints according to state law.

The report prompted renewed calls for Cuomo to resign with President Joe Biden becoming the most prominent of the embattled governor's fellow Democrats to suggest he step down.

"I think he should resign," Biden said during a White House COVID-19 briefing.

Cuomo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and in recent weeks, after being grilled during an 11-hour sit down, he has taken to openly questioning the integrity of investigators running the probe.

The governor authorized the attorney general's investigation in late February after three women came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Others went public in the weeks after the probe launched, including an unnamed staffer who accused the third-term governor of groping her at the governor's mansion last year.

James tasked former federal prosecutor Joon Kim, along with Anne Clark, a prominent employment lawyer, to lead the investigation on March 8.

Investigators talked to 179 individuals and examined thousands of documents, texts, photographs, emails and audio files.

"These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees, federal and state laws," James said

Investigators found that the atmosphere in the Executive Chamber was "rife with fear and intimidation" and that higher-ups not only "enabled the ... instances of harassment to occur" but also "created a hostile work environment overall."

Kim and Clark detailed incidents in which Cuomo groped and grabbed women at will and even repeatedly made sexually charged comments to a female state trooper that included asking her why she wanted to get married when marriage means "your sex drive goes down and asking her why she did not wear a dress."

According to the report, Cuomo often commented on the officer's clothes and once ran his hand along her stomach while she held a door open for him.

A doctor enlisted to administer a COVID-19 test on the governor described inappropriate comments made before a March 2020 press conference and an energy company employee told investigators Cuomo once told her he was going to say there was a spider on her before brushing at the area between her shoulder and chest at an event.

"These brave women stepped forward to speak truth to power and, in doing so, they expressed faith in the belief that although the governor may be powerful, the truth is even more so," Kim said during the briefing.

Former Cuomo staffer Lindsey Boylan precipitated the flood of allegations when she came forward with her claims late last year, accusing the governor of kissing her on the lips after a meeting in his office and saying he "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs."

The attorney general's report found that after Boylan first tweeted out her allegations in December, the Cuomo administration sought out former aides and attempted to undermine her account by releasing personnel memos.

Boylan said the records "were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me."

Others said that Cuomo would regularly touch them in ways that made them uncomfortable and ask deeply personal questions. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she was interested in older men and told her he was open to dating women in their 20s.

"Some suffered through unwanted touching and grabbing of their most intimate body parts. Others suffered through repeated offensive, sexually suggestive or gender-based comments," Kim said during the briefing. "A number of them endured both. None of them welcomed it. And all of them found it disturbing, humiliating, uncomfortable and inappropriate."

The staffer who says Cuomo groped her told investigators that she "in no way, shape or form invited that nor did I ask for it. I didn't want it. I feel like I was being taken advantage of."

She feared for her job and initially remained resolved to take the incident "to the grave," but later related her account to co-workers after witnessing Cuomo publicly deny ever touching a woman inappropriately.

In an 11-hour interview with investigators last month, Cuomo admitted to some of the behavior described by his accusers while denying other allegations, investigators said.

Clark said Cuomo conceded that he had asked Bennett whether she had been involved with older men and said he may have kissed the state trooper at an event but denied touching her.

The governor flatly denied groping a staffer at the executive mansion, telling investigators he "would have to lose my mind to do such a thing."

Cuomo has repeatedly rebuffed calls for his resignation as he denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, though he has apologized for making some women feel uncomfortable.

"The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," Cuomo said in a scripted, pre-recorded response to the report. "I never touched anybody inappropriately... or made inappropriate sexual advances."

What happens next remains unclear as Cuomo refuses to resign and his fate likely rests in the hands of the state Assembly, which is leading an impeachment investigation into the governor's behavior and myriad other scandals that have erupted in recent months.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said the "findings contained in the report are disturbing."

"The details provided by the victims are gut-wrenching," he said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to all the individuals who have had to endure this horrible experience. The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office."

James said her investigation has concluded and there were no criminal referrals made to prosecutors. That doesn't mean any local authorities are barred from using the evidence and findings of the report to open their own cases.

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