By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams
New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo “violated multiple state and federal laws” by groping, kissing, and hugging current and former government employees without their consent; making inappropriate sexual comments; creating a toxic work environment; and retaliating against at least one former staffer who went public with her story.
Those are the key findings of a months-long probe by a team of independent investigators appointed earlier this year by New York Attorney General Letitia James after multiple women came forward and accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, prompting calls for his resignation or removal.
In a 168-page report (pdf) released Tuesday, the investigators conclude that Cuomo “engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment under federal and New York State law.”
The report, based in part on interviews with 179 individuals, continues:
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. 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.
The investigators said that 11 women—including nine current or former state employees—accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
“We found all 11 women to be credible,” Anne Clark, an employment lawyer who helped led the probe, told the New York Times. “There was corroboration to various degrees.”
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat, was among the lawmakers who called for the governor’s immediate resignation on Tuesday:
In a statement announcing the findings, James said she is “grateful to all the women who came forward to tell their stories in painstaking detail, enabling investigators to get to the truth.”
“This is a sad day for New York because independent investigators have concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and, in doing so, broke the law,” said James. “No man—no matter how powerful—can be allowed to harass women or violate our human rights laws, period.”
During a press conference Tuesday, James called the report “deeply disturbing” and said it reveals “conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government.”
Cuomo continued to deny the allegations on Tuesday, claiming he has never touched anyone inappropriately.
In response to the investigative team’s findings, the New York-based Working Families Party (WFP) tweeted that “the facts are clear.”
“Andrew Cuomo is unfit to lead,” WFP wrote, “and must resign or be removed from office.”
Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at New York’s Fordham University, echoed that message, declaring, “If Andrew Cuomo doesn’t resign immediately, he should be impeached immediately.”
“New York can’t function and provide the basic services of government with a dishonest, lawbreaking, toxic governor,” Teachout said.
Bridget Todd, director of communications at advocacy group UltraViolet, said New York Democrats who called for the investigation must “take the results seriously.”
“If Cuomo refuses to resign from office, we demand his timely removal by New York legislators,” said Todd. “Anything less is unacceptable and a flagrant disregard for past, present, and future employees and residents of New York State.”
This story has been updated with additional reactions to the report.