President Joe Biden has called on longtime friend and ally Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to resign, hours after the release of an independent investigation that found the governor had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women.
“I think he should resign,” Biden said on Tuesday afternoon, during a briefing updating the federal government’s vaccination program. Biden said that while “the state legislature may decide to impeach,” he would leave calls for Cuomo’s impeachment to leaders in Albany.
It followed a similar call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said in a statement, “Recognizing his love of New York and the respect for the office he holds, I call upon the Governor to resign.”
Biden had largely resisted weighing in on the allegations against Cuomo, which first surfaced in December 2020 when a former aide accused the three-term governor of “years” of sexual harassment. In March, Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that if the misconduct allegations were substantiated by investigators, he would support Cuomo stepping down.
“There should be an investigation to determine whether what she says is true,” Biden said at the time, referring to one of Cuomo’s accusers. “That’s what’s going on now… There could be a criminal prosecution that is attached to it. I just don’t know.”
Other Democrats, including the majority of New York’s congressional delegation and a majority of state legislators, called for Cuomo to resign months ago.
The independent investigation, the results of which were announced on Tuesday morning by New York Attorney General Letitia James, found that Cuomo broke both state and federal law by harassing 11 different women, many of whom were state employees—including allegedly fondling a state trooper who was part of his personal protective detail and making crude remarks to a doctor who tested him for COVID-19.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters ahead of Biden’s remarks that she would leave discussing the allegations to him, but said that she found the charges against Cuomo “abhorrent,” and said that the women who have come forward deserve to be heard.
“I don’t know that anyone could have watched this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent. I know I certainly did,” Psaki said. “All women who have lived through this type of experience, whether it is harassment or abuse or, in the worst case, assault, deserve to have their voices heard, deserve to be treated with respect and with dignity.”
Cuomo has denied the allegations in a video response released after James’ press conference, declaring that “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed.”
“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” Cuomo said, before playing a video montage of him hugging supporters as evidence that he is merely friendly. “I am 63 years old, I’ve lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am and that’s not who I have ever been.”
In a lengthy report crafted by Cuomo’s attorneys intended to refute the allegations, Cuomo included numerous photos of Biden hugging supporters, colleagues, and Vice President Kamala Harris as proof that his behavior towards women is not out of the ordinary. The White House did not respond to the inclusion of those photos on the record, and Biden said that he was “not going to flyspeck this.”
“There may have been some embraces that were totally innocent,” Biden said of Cuomo, but James’ investigation had clearly drawn different conclusions about other instances.
Biden himself came under fire in April 2019 after he was accused by a former Nevada state lawmaker of touching her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable.
At the time, Biden expressed surprise at her allegation but promised to change his behavior around women in the future.
“I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention,” Biden said in a statement at the time. “And I will.”