A 165-page report released Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) paints a damning portrait of behavior by Mr. Cuomo and his senior staff. According to the outside investigators hired by Ms. James, the governor, 63, engaged in unwanted and inappropriate groping, kissing, hugging and comments that accusers called “humiliating, uncomfortable, offensive, or inappropriate.” His harassment was not limited to his own staff but extended to other state employees, including a state trooper, and members of the public. The environment in the governor’s office was described as abusive and vindictive; one woman who had publicly accused Mr. Cuomo of harassment was targeted for retaliation through the release of her personnel file.
“Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents. They were part of a pattern,” said Joon H. Kim, a former top federal prosecutor, who was hired, along with Anne L. Clark, a respected employment lawyer, by Ms. James to examine the allegations against Mr. Cuomo. They interviewed 179 individuals and reviewed more than 74,000 documents to corroborate the claims of 11 women, all found to be credible.
Mr. Cuomo nonetheless seems to think he can tough out the scandal — staying in office and even running for a fourth term — with his characteristic bravado and bullying. On Tuesday, he again denied that he ever touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances. During his interview with investigators, he suggested the complainants were motivated by politics or animosity, and he attacked the investigation as a ploy by Ms. James as she lays the groundwork for a possible gubernatorial run. Most insulting have been his attempts to portray his behavior as just simple, old-fashioned displays of affection, an effort that continued Tuesday with a contrived slideshow of him hugging and kissing people in public.
Make no mistake: What the witnesses described was sexual harassment. One woman recounted how the governor reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast. Another said he touched her on the stomach, running his hand across it from her belly button to her right hip, while she was holding a door open for him. “Something just happened and I can’t even type it out . . . GOING TO BURST INTO TEARS,” one woman texted a close friend contemporaneously with a conversation with Mr. Cuomo.
It is dispiriting to read in the report how the governor’s staff, acting either out of loyalty or fear, cosseted the governor and enabled his behavior. Even when they took action — transferring to another office a female assistant who had complained, or trying to prevent the governor from ever being alone with a woman — they seemed more intent on protecting him than the women he was allegedly victimizing.
While the report claims that Mr. Cuomo violated state and federal laws, Ms. James did not make a criminal referral. She said the report is public, and police and prosecutors can follow up. Certainly, it gives the Democrats who control the state legislature an obvious road map for impeachment.