An emotional Andrew Cuomo has offered his most comprehensive apology yet for the conduct that prompted two women to accuse him of sexual harassment – and which put his political career in jeopardy – but insisted he did not would not resign.
With a faltering voice, the governor of New York said he was embarrassed and ashamed of the behavior that had made people suffer. Yet he also maintained that he had “never touched anyone inappropriately” and urged the public to wait for the results of an official investigation before passing judgment.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I caused someone. I never wanted it. And I’ll be better for this experience,” the governor said.
Cuomo’s contrition was a rare display of an overbearing governor who ruled New York for a decade, often struggling through fear and intimidation. It came as a growing chorus of lawmakers, including several from his own Democratic Party, asked him to step down – something the governor insisted he would not do.
“I’m not going to resign. I work for the people of New York State. They elected me and I will serve the people of New York State, ”Cuomo said.
His appearance at a press briefing – the venue in which he became a national figure early last year for his daily updates on the Covid-19 pandemic – was his first in days, and came about then that his administration clung to another, escalation of scandals.
Long-standing complaints that the governor deliberately underestimated nursing home deaths caused by the coronavirus – to protect his reputation, critics say – gained traction last month after the publication of an investigation of the New York Attorney General.
Since then, two former collaborators have come forward to present detailed accusations of sexual harassment by Cuomo. A woman said the governor had kissed her and suggested that she play strip poker. Another said he asked her if she had had sex with older men.
Other women have since alleged that Cuomo’s behavior made them uncomfortable.
In both cases, Cuomo offered what was seen as a reluctant apology. Responding to allegations of harassment, for example, he dismissed them as misinterpreted jokes. He eventually consented to an independent investigation by Attorney General Letitia James, which he initially resisted.
Until recently, Cuomo had been considered a candidate for a fourth term and enjoyed national fame for his leadership during the pandemic. There is now widespread speculation about whether he will fulfill his term – let alone stand for election next year.
The governor’s sudden weakness came at a difficult time for New York. The state has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and is now working to step up its vaccination efforts while dealing with a tax situation and the challenges to reopen an economy devastated by the pandemic.
“I can’t imagine Andrew Cuomo not completing his term,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor at New York University. “The state now faces the challenge of adopting a state budget on time while vaccinating New Yorkers while fighting Covid-19.”
Moss added, “The state legislature is a representative body made up of over 200 politicians elected to two-year terms, which means it is neither designed nor equipped to run New York State. . “
But Cuomo has a long list of enemies, including his own party. Progressive Democrats, in particular, have resented his opposition over the years to increased social spending and higher taxes for the rich, and several have expressed a desire to see him go.
As a sign of Cuomo’s demise of authority, lawmakers struck a deal on Tuesday to strip the governor of emergency powers that had given him carte blanche to order quarantines and other restrictive measures during the pandemic.