As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo nears a week without holding a news conference after a series of recent scandals, many are looking toward the next in line if he is forced out of office: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Cuomo has been under fire for weeks, first for his handling of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, then allegedly attempting to cover it up.
Now, he finds himself embroiled in separate sexual harassment claims, prompting for many to call for a probe of the governor, and potentially, his job.
- Earlier story - New Cuomo Sexual Harassment Allegations Spark Bipartisan Backlash, Some Calls To Resign
Cuomo has repeatedly denied any misgivings regarding the allegations made against him, though if he is removed from office, Hochul would become the first woman to serve as governor in New York.
If Cuomo was to resign or be impeached, the 62-year-old Hochul, who previously served as the County Clerk in Erie County before being elected to Congress, would be first in line to succeed him and take his seat in Albany, becoming the first female governor in New York history.
“There’s one word that describes our lieutenant governor: tenacious,” Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner told the New York Post. “She’s been a bulldog from day one. She knows what needs to get done for the people of New York.”
Some top elected officials in New York have joined in the cacophony of voices calling for Cuomo’s job as Attorney General Letitia James launches a formal investigation with subpoena power into the claims against the governor.
“Gov. Cuomo has led New York through a terrible time with much to praise,” Democratic State Sen. Shelley Mayer said. “But that does not reduce the obligation, both morally and legally, to provide a workplace free of harassment, intimidation, and other unacceptable conduct. I believe public servants must be held to the highest standard of workplace conduct.
“I have spent almost my entire career in public service, and I remember the times when my female colleagues and I knew we couldn’t raise our voices about inappropriate behavior without jeopardizing our jobs and our careers,” Mayer continued. “Women are not going back to being quiet about sexual harassment and workplace intimidation, and their accusations must be taken seriously and investigated fully and independently.”
One of Cuomo’s accusers, former aide Lindsey Boylan, has accused the governor of inappropriately kissing her in his Manhattan office, and the second accuser, Charlotte Bennett, said she interpreted his remarks as "grooming" and sexual advances in nature.
"To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to," Cuomo said. "That's why I have asked for an outside, independent review that looks at these allegations."
Assemblymember Didi Barrett joined in, saying that "there is no place for sexual harassment in any social setting or any workplace -- most especially in public service.
"Too often women are the targets, as we have seen in every sector through the #MeToo movement, and we must ensure women who step forward can safely tell their truths," she said in a statement.
"The two allegations against Governor Cuomo are very troubling and suggest behavior that is in direct opposition to his own past statements and policies to 'Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,' she added. "I join with my Legislative Colleagues in both houses in calling for a truly independent and transparent investigation process."
When speaking on the claims against Cuomo, Hochul stated that “everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously.”
Cuomo issued a statement defending his actions while acknowledging that “questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office.”
“I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends,” he said. “At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way. I do it in public and in private.
“You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
Cuomo said that he “now understands that (his) interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of (his) comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.”
“I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” Cuomo said. “To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”
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