New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confronted a fantastic series of defections Friday amid allegations of sexual harassment that left the high-profile Democrat fighting for his political survival, angry and alone.
By the end of the day, the three-time governor had lost the support of almost the entire 29-member New York Congress delegation and a majority of Democrats in the state legislature. None of the increases hurt more than New York’s two U.S. senators, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
“Because of the many credible allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the trust of his government partners and the people of New York,” the Democratic senators wrote in a joint statement. “Governor Cuomo should resign.”
The escalating political crisis has given rise to an indictment in an overwhelmingly democratic state and threatens to cast a cloud over President Joe Biden’s early days. Republicans have taken on the scandal in an attempt to distract from Biden’s success in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and challenging his party’s well-established advantage over women voters.
Biden, a longtime ally of Cuomo and his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, has avoided dealing directly with the controversy, even though it is becoming increasingly difficult.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined on Friday to say whether Biden believes Cuomo should resign. She said that every woman who has come forward “deserves to have her voice heard, should be treated with respect and should be able to tell her story.”
The senator’s statement, citing the pandemic as a reason for needing “safe and steady leadership”, came shortly after Schumer stood by Biden at a Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate the pro-democracy $ 1.9 trillion rescue effort for coronavirus.
A defiant Cuomo earlier in the day insisted he would not resign and condemned his Democratic opponents as “ruthless and dangerous.”
“I did not do what was said. Period “, he said, before eliciting a favorite complaint from former President Donald Trump. “People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to interrupting culture and the truth.”
Never before has the cheeky, 63-year-old Democratic governor, who had been expected to run for a fourth term in 2022, been more politically isolated.
Some in Cuomo’s party had already turned to him for his administrative move to keep secret how many nursing home carers died of COVID-19 in months, and the latest wave of dropouts signaled a possible tipping point.
Cuomo’s coalition of critics has expanded geographically and politically and now covers virtually all regions of the state and the political centers of power in New York City and Washington. Among them is the progressive American rope. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; the leader of the House’s Democratic campaign arm, the American Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney; Buffalo-based U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins; and a group of Long Island-based state legislators who had been Cuomo loyalists.
“The victims of sexual assault concern me more than politics or other narrow considerations, and I think Governor Cuomo needs to step aside,” Maloney said.
Ocasio-Cortez, in a joint statement with the US Rep. Jamaal Bowman, said that after a new fumbling accusation against the governor, she was worried about the safety and well-being of the governor’s staff.
“We believe in these women,” they said.
New York lawmakers approve legal inquiries
Cuomo on Friday insisted he never touched anyone incorrectly and said again that he is sorry if he ever made anyone uncomfortable. He refused to answer a direct question about whether he had a romantic relationship with any of the accusers.
“I have not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period,” he said.
The state legislature announced an indictment on Thursday as lawmakers investigate whether there are grounds for Cuomo’s forced deportation from office. The public prosecutor is also leading an investigation into his workplace behavior.
The firestorm around the governor grew after the Times Union of Albany reported on Wednesday that an unidentified assistant told a supervisor Cuomo reached under her shirt and caressed her at his official residence late last year.
The woman has not filed a criminal complaint, but a lawyer for the governor said Thursday that the state reported the allegation to police in Albany after the woman refused to do so herself.
In addition, Cuomo faces several allegations of sexually suggestive comments and behaviors toward women, including female assistants. An assistant said he asked her if she would ever have sex with an older man. And another assistant said that the governor once kissed her without consent and that the governor’s assistants smeared her in public after she accused him of sexual harassment.
>> Third woman accuses New York Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment
Rarely in the modern era has a leading elected official survived such a political backlash from his own party, but there are precedents.
The former government of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, a Republican, refused to resign in 2009 after a scandal involving an extramarital affair. He continued to serve in Congress. And in 2019, Virginia’s Democratic government Ralph Northam received sweeping calls for his resignation after a blackface image in an old yearbook emerged. Northam is still on duty.
Cuomo said on Friday that he would still be able to rule despite the growing list of elected officials who have demanded his resignation.
He did not address reality in an increasingly unsustainable position: Cuomo is still dealing with the state’s pandemic response and is negotiating a state budget with legislators who have lost confidence in his leadership. More than 120 members of the state legislature urged him to quit earlier this week, a majority of them Democrats.
The dropouts from virtually the entire congressional delegation raised the prospect of further erosion of support.
Cuomo showed no signs of bowing to the pressure and raised new questions about the prosecution’s motives.
“I will not speculate on people’s possible motives,” he said on Friday. “But I can tell you as a former Attorney General who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motives for making an accusation. And that is why you need to know the facts before making a decision.”
“Serious accusations should be seriously considered, right?” He added. “That’s why they’re called serious.”