An investigation that went on for five months has found that New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, 63, sexually harassed multiple women in violation of federal and state law.
The investigation also found out that the governor’s actions created a “climate of fear” within his office, state Attorney General Letitia James said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
The independent inquiry showed that Cuomo engaged in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging, and made inappropriate comments to a total of 11 women, James told a news briefing.
James added that the Democratic governor’s office had become a “toxic workplace” that enabled harassment to occur.
The findings, detailed in a scathing 168-page report, could deal a devastating blow to Cuomo’s political future and hinder his administration, although the probe was civil in nature and will not directly lead to any criminal charges against him.
“These 11 women were in a hostile and toxic work environment. We should believe women,” said James, a Democrat.
“What this investigation revealed was a disturbing pattern of conduct by the governor of the great state of New York,” James added.
There was no immediate comment from the governor’s office. Cuomo has however denied any wrongdoing.
Carl Heastie, Speaker of the Democratic-controlled New York Assembly who has authorised an impeachment investigation into Cuomo’s conduct, in a statement called the report’s findings “disturbing” and said they pointed to “someone who is not fit for office.”
Investigators spoke to 179 people, including complainants and current and former members of the executive chamber, James said.
According to her, the probe resulted in a “clear picture” of what she called a “climate of fear” in which Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of them young.
James launched her investigation into the allegations after receiving a formal request from Cuomo’s office on March 1 to do so as the number of publicly reported allegations mounted.
She named two veteran outside attorneys to run the investigation: Joon Kim, a former federal prosecutor and acting US attorney in Manhattan, and Anne Clark, an employment lawyer with experience in sexual harassment cases.
Kim told the briefing that the Cuomo’s workplace was “rife with bullying, fear and intimidation” and one in which crossing the governor or his senior staff meant you would be “written off, cast aside or worse.”
The report shows that investigators did not find Cuomo’s explanations about his encounters to be credible. It said Cuomo’s “blanket denials and lack of recollection as to specific incidents stood in stark contrast to the strength, specificity, and corroboration of the complainants’ recollections.”
It was a swift fall from grace for the governor. Cuomo became nationally popular last year in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by presenting himself as an authoritative figure in daily televised press conferences.
The complaints about sexual harassment emerged after broader criticism by Democratic politicians in the state that Cuomo governed through intimidation.
Cuomo, the divorced father of three adult daughters, was elected to three terms as governor, as was his late father, Mario Cuomo.
Andrew Cuomo, like his father, resisted the temptation to run for US president despite much speculation about possible national ambitions.
SaharaReporters, New York