In a blistering farewell address to constituents on Monday, a defiant New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the State Attorney General’s five-month investigation that found he sexually harassed multiple women, calling it a “political firecracker” that triggered an “unfair and unjust” rush to judgment against him.
The 63-year-old Cuomo is set to leave the office at 11:59 p.m. Monday, and his replacement, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, will be sworn in as New York’s first woman governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, in a private ceremony at the state capitol in Albany.
But in a noon address, Cuomo used the opportunity to slam the allegations against him and tout his accomplishments as governor.
“Let me say now that when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society,” Cuomo said. “I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment, but that is not right. It’s not fair or sustainable. Facts still matter.”
Cuomo, who has insisted he did not touch anyone inappropriately, announced his resignation on Aug. 13, ten days after State Attorney General Letitia James made public the results of an investigation she alleged found the governor sexually harassed multiple women, including current and former state employees, and had retaliated against one of his accusers.
“A firecracker can start a stampede, but at one point everyone looks around and says, ‘Why are we running?'” The truth is ultimately always revealed,” Cuomo said. “The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked. There was a political and media stampede but the truth will (come) out in time. Of that I am confident.”
Cuomo also sought to establish a legacy beyond the allegations that drove him from office, saying, “No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have.” He listed his accomplishments, including a refurbished LaGuardia Airport, a new Penn Station transportation terminal in New York City and marriage equality as cornerstones to what he called a “new paradigm of government that actually works.”
He offered advice for the pandemic that made him a national figure for the empathy and seriousness he showed during his daily press briefings on the crisis. And he reminded listeners that under his leadership, “We faced up to the facts and we made the tough but necessary decisions.”
Cuomo acknowledged that at midnight Kathy Hochul will become governor and said “I believe she will step up to the challenge.”
But he returned to the scandal that has led to his dramatic downfall.
“Now there are moments in life that test our character, that asks us are we the person we believe we are or are we the person we try to be at our best. You know me, I am a fighter and my instinct is to fight this because it is unfair and unjust in my mind,” Cuomo said.
“But you also know that I love New York and I serve you,” he said. “That is the oath that I took. And in this moment, I believe the right thing is that my service comes first. Prolonging this situation could only cause governmental paralysis and that is just not an option for you and not an option for the state, especially now.”
He began his last day on the job Monday with his top aid releasing a statement on his behalf, saying Cuomo “has no interest in running for office again.”