Not long after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would step down in the aftermath of a damning report that corroborated the claims of at least 11 women accusing him of sexual harassment, his first accuser called it a “tragedy” that “so many stood by” as the abuse unfolded.
“From the beginning, I simply asked that the Governor stop his abusive behavior,” Lindsey Boylan said in a statement Tuesday. “It became abundantly clear he was unable to do that, instead attacking and blaming victims until the end. It is a tragedy that so many stood by and watched these abuses happen.”
The former state economic adviser first came forward publicly with her allegations of sexual harassment against the governor in December, effectively opening the floodgates to a wave of similar accusations from other women, many of whom serve as current and former aides to Cuomo.
“Most importantly, I am in awe of the strength of the other women who risked everything to come forward,” Boylan added. “My hope always has been that this will make it safer for other women to report their own harassment and abuse. I will continue the fight to make that happen.”
Debra Katz—an attorney for Charlotte Bennett, who accused the governor of sexual harassment in February—said in a statement Tuesday that Boylan’s efforts had encouraged her client to stand up even as Cuomo’s “well-oiled political machine worked overtime” to squash Boylan’s claims and undermine her character.
Bennett’s lawyer said the governor had “no choice but to resign” after the report substantiated many of the women’s allegations which for Bennett’s part have included text messages, emails and sworn testimony that “demonstrated incontrovertibly” Cuomo had sexually harassed her at work.
Cuomo, a third-term Democrat who has also been accused of steering a toxic workplace that fostered a culture of fear and intimidation, had for months resisted calls for him to call it quits. His move to step down effective 14 days from Tuesday took some who’ve worked closely with him by surprise.
One former Cuomo aide, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional retaliation, told The Daily Beast that the decision “was the last thing I expected to happen today.”
“I would have expected him to fight—he has so much pride. I would have assumed he would have fought the impeachment proceedings," the former staffer said. “But I also was not surprised that before resigning, he insisted that he was innocent and everyone just misinterpreted. That felt on brand,” the ex-aide added.
Another former Cuomo aide told The Daily Beast that the governor had no choice but to resign this week because of how an impeachment might further tarnish his legacy.
“How he will go down in the history books matters to him,” the aide said.
Cuomo’s counsel, Rita Glavin, has appeared laser-focused in recent days on repairing that legacy in her assertions that the report had been tainted by a predetermined narrative that she called both “unfair” and “inaccurate.”
In efforts to discredit his accusers, she said during a press conference Friday that Cuomo barely knew the executive assistant who accused him of reaching under her blouse to grope her breast in the executive mansion in November last year.
That assistant—Brittany Commisso—filed a criminal complaint against him with the Albany County Sheriff’s office last week and reinforced the deluge of damning evidence that encircled the governor in an interview that aired on Monday. On Tuesday, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said in a statement to The Daily Beast that while he gives Cuomo “credit for stepping aside and putting [New York] first,” the decision to resign has “no effect” on the ongoing investigation into Commisso’s claims. A spokesperson for the Albany District Attorney declined to comment.
During a CBS This Morning interview, Commisso slammed the governor for defensively claiming he commonly hugged, kissed, and touched people and only recently realized his actions were no longer appropriate.
“To me and the other women that he did this to, oh, it was not normal,” Commisso said. “It was not welcomed, and it was certainly not consensual.”
Yet Cuomo continued his efforts to chip away and undercut the claims made by his accusers, even just before finally acknowledging that, with little ammunition left, he would step down.
“I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore, that’s what I’ll do,” Cuomo said from his Manhattan office, before thanking some of his chief supporters who had defended him until the very end, including Melissa DeRosa, who announced her resignation on Sunday.
“No other state government accomplished more to help people and that is what it’s all about,” he said of their efforts.
The resignation came just days before Cuomo’s final Friday deadline to submit evidence to the state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee before they considered articles of impeachment. On the eve of Cuomo's announcement, Charles Lavine, the committee’s chairman warned that the panel anticipated it would finish reviewing evidence within “several weeks.”
Cuomo’s unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing and step down sooner was criticized by some of those at the center of the allegations who felt the 168-page report from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office ought to have been sufficient evidence for him to pack his bags.
Mariann Wang, a lawyer for accusers Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, whose experiences were substantiated by independent investigators, said that her clients feel “vindicated and relieved” in the wake of Cuomo’s long-awaited resignation speech.
“His efforts, through his paid attorney, over the last few days, to gaslight and attack the brave women who came forward, apparently served no purpose,” she said in a statement Tuesday.