Gov. Cooper says NY Gov. Cuomo should ‘step aside’ following sexual harassment investigation

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN ) — Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should “step aside” in the wake of an investigation that found he sexually harassed nearly a dozen women in and out of state government and retaliated against one of his accusers.

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“The Attorney General’s report in New York is troubling. I cannot speak for any other Governors, but I believe Governor Cuomo should step aside,” Cooper said in a statement to CBS 17.

New York’s attorney general announced the findings of the report Tuesday, hastening calls for the Democrat’s resignation or impeachment.

The governor remained defiant, saying in a taped response to the findings that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” and that he “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

The nearly five-month investigation, led by two outside lawyers, concluded that 11 women who said that Cuomo had touched them inappropriately, commented on their appearance, or made suggestive comments about their sex lives were telling the truth.

Those accusers included an aide who said Cuomo groped her breast at the governor’s mansion and a state trooper on his security detail, who said he ran his hand or fingers across her stomach and her back.

Anne Clark, who led the probe with former U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, said the allegations were corroborated to varying degrees, including by other witnesses and contemporaneous text messages.

“These interviews and pieces of evidence revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of federal and state laws,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Many of the women said they feared retaliation if they reported the governor’s behavior, investigators said. On at least one occasion, the probe found, Cuomo’s staff took action “intended to discredit and disparage” an accuser — Lindsey Boylan, the first former employee to publicly accuse him of wrongdoing — including leaking confidential personnel files and drafting a letter attacking her credibility.

The investigation’s findings, detailed in a 165-page public report, turn up the pressure on the 63-year-old governor, who just a year ago was widely hailed for his steady leadership during the darkest days of the COVID-19 crisis, even writing a book about it.

Since then, he’s seen his standing crumble with a drumbeat of harassment allegations, questions in a separate, ongoing inquiry into whether state resources went into writing the book, and the discovery that his administration concealed the true number of nursing home deaths during the outbreak.

The revelations, most of which were initially made public last winter, led to a chorus of calls then for Cuomo’s resignation from many top elected Democrats in New York. U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said after the report’s release Tuesday that it reinforces a call for his resignation they first made last March.

“No elected official is above the law. The people of New York deserve better leadership in the governor’s office. We continue to believe that the Governor should resign,” they said in a joint statement.

While James concluded the investigation without referring the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges, local authorities could use its evidence and findings to mount their own cases. Albany District Attorney David Soares said he will be requesting material from James’ office and welcomed victims to contact his office with information.

The investigation’s findings are also expected to play an important role in an ongoing state Assembly inquiry into whether there are grounds to impeach Cuomo, who has been raising money for a potential fourth term in office. The Assembly hired its own legal team to investigate myriad allegations regarding harassment, his book, nursing homes and special access to COVID-19 testing.

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