What to Know
- President Joe Biden offered his strongest language yet regarding the allegations of sexual harassment against Andrew Cuomo, saying during an interview that the governor should resign if the investigation confirms the claims
- A third accuser is set to meet with investigators probing the allegations; Ana Liss did not come forward with a specific allegation, but rather addressed what she called a "toxic workplace environment"
- On Monday, a Siena College Poll of New York revealed that a majority of voters (50 - 35 percent) believe Cuomo should not immediately resign. While 48-34 percent, they say he can continue to effectively do his job as governor.
President Joe Biden said during an interview Tuesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should resign if the state attorney general’s investigation confirms the sexual harassment allegations against him.
Biden made the remarks in an interview with ABC News that is scheduled to air Wednesday morning. When asked if the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should Cuomo resign, Biden said “yes,” adding, “I think he’d probably end up being prosecuted, too.”
“It takes a lot of courage to come forward so the presumption is it should be taken seriously,” Biden said. “And it should be investigated, and that’s what’s underway now.”
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The president's strongest words yet on the matter come as another of the governor's sexual harassment accusers is expected to meet with state attorney general investigators this week about the case. Her testimony will come days after accuser Charlotte Bennett provided officials with more than 100 pages of records her lawyer said will corroborate her accusations.
Ana Liss, who spoke in a TV interview earlier this month about the alleged "toxic workplace environment" in the embattled governor's office, plans to meet with the attorney general's investigators on Thursday.
She is one of six women, several of them former members of his staff, who have alleged that the longtime Democratic governor sexually harassed or behaved inappropriately. Cuomo has repeatedly denied touching any woman in such a manner.
In her four-hour interview with investigators Monday, Bennett provided authorities with 120 pages of records from the time of the alleged harassment and other documentary evidence to corroborate her accusations, her lawyer, Debra Katz, said in a statement. Bennett revealed new details about Cuomo’s behavior and what she said was a “sexually hostile work environment,” according to Katz.
“The investigators have been moving quickly, and with sensitivity, to get to the heart of these allegations,” Katz said. “We remain confident that their investigation will substantiate Charlotte’s claims of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo, as well as the failure of his senior staff to meet their mandatory reporting requirements under the very laws he signed.”
Fellow Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan was also interviewed by the attorney general's investigators last weekend, her attorney Jill Basinger said later Monday.
"It is clear from the interview that the investigators are moving expeditiously and taking their work seriously," Basinger said. "We are pleased with the scope of the investigation and the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of their questioning."
The governor's office is also facing scrutiny after a New York Times report said that those close to Cuomo sent a letter to aides that attacked Boylan's credibility. The newspaper reports that in the letter were personnel complaints filed against Boylan and it tried to tie her to supporters of former president Donald Trump, implying that her claims were premeditated and politically motivated.
The idea behind the letter was to have former Cuomo aides — particularly women — attach their names to it and send it out. While the letter was sent to some former advisers and then to current and former top aides, it was not clear how many people were asked to sign the letter. It was never released.
That same day, a Siena College Poll of New York revealed that a majority of voters (50 - 35 percent) believe Cuomo should not immediately resign. While 48-34 percent, they say he can continue to effectively do his job as governor.
The poll, which was conducted between March 8 through 12, showed that voters are satisfied with the way Cuomo has addressed the allegations, 57-32 percent.
“While many elected officials – Democrats and Republicans alike – have called for Cuomo’s resignation, by a 50-35 percent margin, the voters of New York say Cuomo should not immediately resign. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say Cuomo should resign, however, 61 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents, a plurality, say he should not,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “A majority of New York City voters and a plurality of voters from both upstate and the downstate suburbs say he should not resign.
"Similarly, voters say despite the ongoing investigations, Cuomo can continue to effectively do his job as governor, 48-34 percent,” Greenberg said. “A strong majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents say he can govern effectively, while two-thirds of Republicans disagree. Voters outside of New York City are closely divided, however, a strong majority of New York City voters say he can effectively do his job.”
Overall, the poll found that one-third of voters say that Cuomo has committed sexual harassment, one-quarter say he has not, and a plurality are unsure.
“While more voters, 35 percent, say Cuomo has committed sexual harassment than those who say he has not committed sexual harassment, 24 percent, the plurality of voters, 41 percent, are undecided,” Greenberg said.
The Siena College Poll not only touched upon the controversial allegations against the governor. The poll also looked into what voters think of Cuomo's handling of the ongoing pandemic -- and although he received positive marks, there is one exception in which New Yorkers aren't too thrilled with the governor.
When it comes to the pandemic, the voters polled approve of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, 60-33 percent, compared to the 61-34 percent last month.
Voters give Cuomo positive grades on four specifics related to the pandemic – communicating, providing accurate information, reopening plans, and managing the vaccine rollout. However, when it comes to making COVID-related nursing home death data public, the approval rating changes and voters give Cuomo a negative grade, 27-66 percent.
Overall, Cuomo has a 43-45 percent favorability rating, down significantly from 56-39 percent in February, according to the poll. His job performance rating is 46-52 percent, which is also down from 51-47 percent the previous month. Additionally, 34 percent of voters say they are prepared to re-elect Cuomo if he runs for re-election next year and 52 percent say they would "prefer someone else" -- these percentages are down from the 46-45 in February.
“Cuomo’s standing with voters has clearly fallen in the last month. His favorability rating and his re-elect number are both down net 19 points, while his job performance rating is down net 10 points,” Greenberg said. “Cuomo’s drop in all three ratings is largely the result of Democrats. Among Democrats alone, his favorability rating dropped net 31 points and his re-elect dropped net 33 points. In fact, only 46 percent of Democrats now want to re-elect Cuomo, compared to 40 percent who want someone else, down from 65-26 percent last month."
Cuomo has tried to press on and project normalcy amid the scandal. On Monday, he appeared at a vaccination site on Long Island in an event closed to the press —ostensibly because of COVID-19 restrictions — where he talked about the importance of getting a new state budget done by an April 1 deadline. He didn’t address the scandal but did speak generally of comebacks in the face of adversity.
“Sometimes, God comes and he knocks you on your rear end for one reason or another, or life comes and knocks you on your rear end for one reason or another,” Cuomo said in a comment that was intended to reference the state’s situation, but could also apply to his personal troubles. ”The question is what you do when you get knocked on your rear end. And New Yorkers get up, and they get up stronger, and they learn the lesson.”
The governor said that budget was critical to getting the state back on its feet. That process normally involves intense negotiations and deal-making between Cuomo and the two top leaders in the Legislature — which this year consists of some of the same people who have demanded that he step down.
Several prominent New York Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on Cuomo to step down. The three-term governor has refused to resign and has denied he did what has been alleged.
More than 130 state lawmakers have said Cuomo should resign, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The state Assembly has opened up an impeachment investigation. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced on Twitter early Wednesday morning that a law firm will be hired to assist the Assembly Judiciary Committee in their impeachment investigation.
Sen. John Liu, a Queens Democrat on the Senate finance committee, said the allegations surrounding Cuomo have distracted him and lawmakers. He said Democrats who now have veto-proof supermajorities are hoping Cuomo will support long-stalled efforts to legalize marijuana and raise taxes on New Yorkers making more than a million dollars.
“The governor is clearly distracted and that’s not going to help his position,” Liu said. “At the very minimum, he’s facing serious investigations as well as calls for his resignation. None of that adds to his negotiating position.”
Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat of Manhattan, said budget discussions with Cuomo’s staff are ongoing and called the overall dynamic “awkward to say the least.”
“It’s not everyday that you and your colleagues demand the head of your party to step down and proceed with a negotiation,” Hoylman, who chairs the Senate’s judiciary committee and sits on its finance committee, said. “I also think it speaks to why so many of us are concerned with these swirling scandals and the ability for the executive to manage this situation.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading the investigation into the allegations. Last week, she named former federal prosecutor Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark to lead the investigation, which Cuomo has said he will cooperate with. They have full subpoena power and will document their findings in a public report.