ALBANY, New York (AP) — Facing unprecedented political isolation, a defiant New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted on Friday that he would not step down in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and condemned the sprawling coalition of Democrats calling for his resignation as “reckless and dangerous.”
The third-term Democratic governor, a leading critic of former US president Donald Trump’s pandemic response, evoked the Republican president in defending himself against “cancel culture.”
“I’m not going to resign,” Cuomo said during an afternoon phone call with reporters. “I did not do what has been alleged. Period.”
He added: “People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.”
The embattled governor’s comments come on a day that his party in New York and beyond turned sharply against him in the wake of the harassment allegations as well as sweeping criticism of Cuomo for keeping secret how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19 for months.
Cuomo’s growing list of detractors now covers virtually every region in the state and the political power centers of New York City and Washington. A majority of Democrats in the state legislature and 19 of the state’s 27 US House members have called on him to step down.
The escalating political crisis jeopardizes Cuomo’s 2022 reelection in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and threatens to cast a cloud over President Joe Biden’s early days in office. Republicans across the country have seized on the scandal to try to distract from Biden’s success with the pandemic and challenge his party’s well-established advantage with female voters.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has repeatedly said that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris support the state attorney general’s investigation into the harassment allegations.
Dozens of Democrats had already called on Cuomo this week, but the coalition of critics expanded geographically and politically on Friday to include the likes of New York City progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the leader of the House Democratic campaign arm, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney; and a group of Long Island-based state lawmakers who had been loyal Cuomo allies.
Never before has the brash 62-year-old Democratic governor, the son of a New York governor himself, been more politically isolated.
“The victims of sexual assault concern me more than politics or other narrow considerations, and I believe Governor Cuomo must step aside,” said Maloney.
Ocasio-Cortez said she believes the women who have accused the three-term Democratic governor of wrongdoing.
“After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature and public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign,” she tweeted.
After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature & public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign. pic.twitter.com/jV5dwtuVPr
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 12, 2021
Cuomo on Friday insisted that he never touched anyone inappropriately, and said again that he’s sorry if he ever made anyone uncomfortable. He declined to answer a direct question about whether he’s had a consensual romantic relationship with any of the women.
“I have not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period,” he said.
The governor in recent days has been calling lawmakers and supporters asking them to refrain from calling for his resignation, and instead support the ongoing investigations. His strategy does not appear to be working.
The state Assembly allowed an impeachment investigation into Cuomo on Thursday as lawmakers investigate whether there are grounds for his forcible removal from office.
Along with an allegation that the governor groped a female aide at the Executive Mansion last year, Cuomo is facing allegations of sexually suggestive remarks and behavior toward women, including female aides. One aide said he asked her if she would ever have sex with an older man. And another aide claimed the governor once kissed her without consent, and said governor’s aides publicly smeared her after she accused him of sexual harassment.
The governor on Friday vowed that he’ll still be able to govern despite a growing list of New York elected officials who say they’ve lost faith in his ability to govern.
Cuomo didn’t address the reality of an increasingly untenable position: He’s seeking a fourth term next year, managing the state’s pandemic response and negotiating a state budget with state lawmakers who’ve lost confidence in his leadership.
He again raised questions the motives of women alleging him of inappropriate conduct and behavior.
“A lot of people allege a lot of things for a lot of reasons,” he said Friday. “I won’t speculate about people’s possible motives. But I can tell you are former attorney general who has gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation. And that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.”
“Serious allegations should be weighed seriously, right?” he said. “That’s why they are called serious.”
But dozens of Democrats have already determined the allegations are serious enough to warrant his immediate removal.
On Friday, US Representatives Jerry Nadler, Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Nydia Velazquez, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Antonio Delgado, Brian Higgins and Yvette Clarke pushed for Cuomo’s resignation, joining Kathleen Rice, who called for Cuomo’s resignation previously.
Other Republicans in New York’s congressional delegation previously called for Cuomo’s resignation, including Nicole Malliotakis, Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney and Lee Zeldin.
Nadler said Cuomo has lost the confidence of New Yorkers.
“The repeated accusations against the governor, and the manner in which he has responded to them, have made it impossible for him to continue to govern at this point,” Nadler said.
Spokespeople for New York’s Democratic US senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
The 63-year-old governor currently plans to run for a fourth four-year term in 2022. New York has no term limits.