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It’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do one honorable thing: step down. If he refuses, lawmakers should remove him. Pronto.
The case for his departure — whether voluntary or forced — was clear long before state Attorney General Letitia James released her damning report Tuesday. Now there’s no longer any excuse for delay.
Even Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who oversees impeachment proceedings but who has until now practically broken his back trying to protect the gov, admitted that Cuomo’s “conduct,” as outlined in James’ report, “would indicate someone who is not fit for office.” Heastie called the victims’ details “gut-wrenching” and said Cuomo has “lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority” and “can no longer remain in office.”
Heck, President Joe Biden, a Cuomo ally, also thinks the gov should go. He said in March that Cuomo would need to resign if the investigation confirms the allegations. Now that it has, Biden said Tuesday he’s sticking to his position.
Good for him: Heastie’s description of the governor’s conduct, after all, was spot on — it was absolutely disgusting. James’ report recounts troubling tales from 11 separate women involving action that Cuomo himself would blast if the accused were a Republican or some other enemy. “There should be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment & must send a clear message that this behavior is not tolerated,” Cuomo tweeted in May 2013.
In one case, the governor appears to have arranged for a female state trooper to be hired as part of his Protective Services Unit and then sexually harassed her repeatedly, the report says. Another woman accuses him of groping her breast. Several say he hugged and kissed them inappropriately, including on the lips, and while “grabbing Executive Assistant #1’s butt,” according to the report.
Albany County’s district attorney office announced Tuesday that it’s now conducting a criminal probe into Cuomo’s conduct. Obviously, that probe must follow all leads aggressively, no matter where they lead. Meanwhile, though, it’s hard to see how Cuomo can command any respect and properly govern with this report (let alone potential criminal charges) hanging over his head.
Yes, he denies he crossed any lines or did anything “inappropriate,” though he admits he did regularly kiss and hug many people. He claims his victims — all 11 of them! — simply misinterpreted his well-meaning statements and gestures.
Yet James’ probers found his denials “lack credibility” and are “inconsistent with the weight of the evidence.” They note his failure to recall specific incidents and “blanket denials” stand “in stark contrast the strength, specificity and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections, as well as the reports of many other individuals who offered observations and experiences of the governor’s conduct.”
The report also calls out Cuomo’s staffers for “contributing” to the harassment and their “improper and retaliatory response” to the allegations, including, in one case, “unlawful retaliation.” Yet the fish rots from the head; this is yet more reason for Cuomo’s ouster.
Let’s face it: It’s going to be impossible for the governor to continue running New York government — especially at such a crucial moment — following James’ report alone. Yet as bad as the findings are, they don’t even touch on his numerous other scandals — most notably, his order for nursing homes to accept COVID-contagious patients, and then his coverup of the actual number of residents of those homes who died of the disease.
New Yorkers need a governor they can look up to, someone they can trust as honorable, honest and decent. Cuomo has shown he’s not up to it. It’s long past time for him to go.
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